Of course, there will be the usual corrections and bumps along the way. However, there are five reasons to be upbeat about the overall return outlook for the year ahead. First, global growth is solid. Business conditions indicators – such as surveys of purchasing managers (Purchasing Managers Indexes or PMIs) – are strong and at levels consistent with good global growth.
In Australia, growth is unlikely to be fantastic as housing slows and the consumer is constrained but it should still be okay as the big drag from falling mining investment is abating and the contribution to growth from trade is set to remain solid as resources projects complete.
Second, solid global growth should continue to underpin a recovery in corporate profits after a weak patch into 2016.
Third, there are minimal signs globally of the broad-based excess – in terms of capacity utilisation, growth in debt, investment, wages growth and inflation or asset prices – that normally presage a peak in the growth cycle. Sure, there have been pockets of excess - corporate debt growth has been arguably too strong in the US and China, and the Sydney and Melbourne property markets have been too hot - but they have not been broad based, unlike the share boom and tech related investment into say 2000.
Fourth, because of low inflationary pressures, global monetary tightening will likely remain very gradual and monetary policy will likely remain easy for some time to come. There is a risk that the next Fed rate hike won’t occur until 2018, the ECB’s exit from ultra easy monetary policy will likely be very slow, the RBA is still some time away from tightening and Bank of Japan tightening is likely years away.
Finally, share valuations are not excessive. While price to earnings ratios are a bit above long-term averages, this is not unusual for a low inflationary environment. Valuation measures that allow for low interest rates and bond yields show shares to no longer be as cheap as a year ago but they are still not expensive, particularly outside of the US.
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