12/22/2010 6:24 PM ET|
5 investing themes for 2011
Stimulus pumped into the US economy late in 2010 should be bullish for stocks in 2011. And asset classes that glittered this year could recede in the months ahead.
Investors should be looking ahead to determine what, if any, changes they want to make in their portfolios in 2011.
The Federal Reserve's controversial second round of quantitative easing is slated to continue until mid-2011.
Almost every asset class received at least a short-term boost from those plans. And the two-year extension of the Bush-era tax cuts prompted many economists in the United States to revise their growth projections upward for next year.
Here are five themes that you'll probably be following throughout 2011.
Deficits remain a concern
The legislation that extends tax cuts for almost everyone adds an estimated $858 billion to the federal budget deficit in the next two years alone. Deficit hawks are crying foul, while economists are saying the combination of tax cuts and unemployment benefits should add about 1 percentage point to U.S. economic growth next year. And one of the best ways to cut the deficit is to grow the economy, says Paul Zemsky, the head of asset allocation at ING Investment Management.
The stated goal of the Fed's quantitative easing was to lower interest rates across the board in hopes of spurring more lending and increasing economic growth.
Yields on the 10-year Treasury bond rose in the wake of the announcement, which some experts attribute to concerns that the U.S. deficit is becoming unsustainable. Moody's even issued a warning cautioning policymakers about the budget deficit.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the debt crisis has again reared its ugly head in Europe -- this time in Ireland. The European community reacted swiftly with another bailout package, and most economists seem content with the austerity measures now in place there. Investors will be watching to see whether the crisis spreads to other European countries in 2011.
"There's definitely still risk, particularly with Spain, which is probably too big to save if it got into a big problem," Zemsky says.
Trouble for Treasurys
Since the financial panic of 2008, investors have piled into bond funds because of their perceived safety and shunned more volatile stock funds.
Rising yields are generally associated with an economic recovery, but rising bond yields mean falling bond prices, which will lead to losses in certain funds -- such as those that are heavy on Treasurys.
"The only rationale that I can see for being in Treasury-type bonds is that I'm so worried about everything else that I just want to hide out because it's very difficult to concoct a longer-term story that you're going to increase your wealth in real terms by owning bonds," says Brett Gallagher, deputy chief investment officer for Artio Global Management.
As the economy recovers, Zemsky says he expects Treasury yields to rise from about 3% currently to a more typical 5%.
There are other opportunities in the fixed-income market, Zemsky says, like corporate and high-yield bonds, the latter of which yield roughly 8%.
"They represent a good halfway point between high-quality bonds and stocks, in terms of risk and reward," he says.
US stocks continue to sizzle
An improving economy and higher inflation expectations generally bode well for stocks, says Christian Hviid, the chief market strategist for Genworth Financial Asset Management.
So far this year, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index ($INX) has gained about 12%, and small-cap stocks have returned about 30%. "The story for flows in 2011 will be people's increased appetite for risk, and that implies outflows out of bonds into riskier assets such as equities," Hviid says.
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