2018: The Year Ahead
With the S&P 500, Dow and Nasdaq reaching all-time highs in 2017, a restructured tax plan combined with heightened investor sentiment, has investors who have remained in cash since the financial crisis coming off the sidelines with riskier appetites, in search of higher yields. Although economic indicators point towards continued global expansion, investors should remain cautious. Geopolitical risk, and advancements in technology leading to lower dependence on human capital, could be cause for concern. In January 2017, Samra Wealth Management released a Global Investment Outlook: “The Year Ahead 2017”, identifying four select sectors for double-digit growth: Technology, Healthcare, Financials and Industrials. The select sectors combined with Materials and Consumer Discretionary carried the S&P 500 to an all-time high in 2017, closing-out the year at 19.82%. This month’s issue of The Samra Report highlights our best ideas for the year ahead: best performing sectors of the S&P 500, geographical areas of opportunity, Asset allocation and alternative asset recommendations. With 2017 ending on a positive note, over the next 12 months, we expect global equities to reach double digit growth, in the same select sectors as 2017, with most of the growth coming in the first 6 months.
With a restructured tax plan and rising interest rates, we expect financials to be a key beneficiary: banks and insurance companies should expect a good year ahead. With President Trump’s Wall St. friendly demeanor, and cabinet make-up, there will be little to hold back financials in 2018 as the current administration continues to promotes deregulation in banking. Lower corporate tax rates cut to 21% from 35%, and repatriation sets at a one-time mandatory tax of 8% on illiquid assets and 15.5% on cash and cash equivalents for an estimated $2.6 trillion in U.S. business profits now held overseas. We do expect to see financials to continue on the same trajectory having gained 22.8% in 2016, and 20.03% in 2017, as we forecast an uptick in buybacks and M&A activity.
Global Health Care
With the elimination of the federally imposed fine on Americans not obtaining health care coverage, and efforts underway to control drug pricing, we expect the health care sector to experience some turbulence in 2018. However, on a global landscape, the health care sector should experience double-digit gains. Global internet penetration through increased smart phone saturation, in rural areas of India, China and Africa have opened up markets that were previously inaccessible. With continued leap-frogging of technology, mobile phone application development, and advancements in medicine and logistics, we expect the global health care sector to continue to strive in the coming years. Investors in health care will likely see increased volatility, as a failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is likely to continue into 2018. However, as mentioned in January 2017, we believe the aggressive terminology, “repeal and replace”, translates to “refine”. Given the loss of tax revenue generated by the Federal Government, and 20 million Americans would lose healthcare coverage, refining ACA is the most likely outcome.
With more companies placing more dependence on technology, specifically robotics and automation, drone technology, 3D printing, Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain, over human capital: technology will continue to dominate in 2018. Although there is concern over President Trump’s immigration policies, repatriation should offset these concerns. However, as with healthcare, we believe investors should look towards the global landscape, and not be solely dependent on the US Technology sector. Unlike the dot-com bubble of 2000, a time when great ideas just did not make sense in the real world, in 2018 these concepts will continue to add value through convenience. At Samra Wealth Management, we have compiled a list of our top ideas based on the potential growth outlook in the industry as it relates to the market capitalization in each area.
This disruptive technology is most well-known and associated with Bitcoin, however, Blockchain has the capacity to disrupt almost every industry ranging from cross border transactions, inventory management and voter registration and polling. At Samra Wealth Management we believe all large-cap companies will commit to using Blockchain technology.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
“Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the new electricity” according to Tony Kim, a portfolio Manager with BlackRock’s Global Opportunities Group. The ability to convert massive amounts of complex data to useful information can be used in every other business sector, from banking to healthcare. Research shows AI to the best bet for future investment, as AI is on track to reach a market of $70 billion by 2020. Investors should be cautious, as many ideas within AI will become obsolete, or replicated by larger firms that have the capabilities. The caveat here is, although AI could eliminate up to 47% of total US employment, it is important to remember a decline in the labor force would lead to less disposable income in the economy. Expect domestic firms to use India and China as test markets due to their large populations.
According to PwC; in 2015, the number of reported security incidents rose 48%, to approximately 118,000 per day, while organizations reporting financial losses in excess of $20m rose 92%. The increased attacks are striking both corporate balance sheets, as well as brand image. As we head towards a cashless society, with global internet penetration at an all-time high, and mobile platform increasing in popularity, it is our opinion at Samra Wealth Management, corporations of all sizes will dedicate more resources to battle cyber-attacks. The US government has taken a proactive role in committing to fill an additional 3,500 cyber security positions by the end of 2017.
Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality (VR/AR)
Augmented Reality, which provides a user the ability to superimpose computer-generated images and data, on the user’s real-world view, has seen recent advancements, with regards to optics and 3D mapping abilities. These innovations are creating real world applications, and we expect to see further usage in the following areas:
- Aviation & Aeronautics
- Military & Law Enforcement
- Education & Training
Organizations able to capitalize on AR technology are already experiencing brand recognition, and increased market capitalization. The Pokemon Go craze is one example of an early adopter, the technology has helped Nintendo reawaken their public image, as they double their market capitalization to $42B in just seven trading sessions since the mobile game was launched back in 2016. In 2018, we forecast a similar trend with the use of Apples iPhone X, and application development.
3D printing has the capacity to cross into every other sector, and we are already seeing the benefits within areas of: technology, communications, manufacturing and robotics. We expect real world implementation within the medical and healthcare fields on larger scales as the practices becomes commonly acceptable. Siemens predicts: 3D printing will become 50% cheaper and up to 400% faster in the next five years; expected to surpass $8.3B in global market by 2023. As the automotive industry in the United States heads towards an average fuel consumption mandate of 54.5 miles per gallon, by 2025, 3D printing may be the key. According to Mallikarjun Huralikoppi of NS-3DS a 3D consultant, 3D printers are now equipped to print more than just plastic, and have been used to print materials ranging from carbon fiber to human tissue.
According to PwC; the global market for commercial application for drone technology is estimated to be $2B, and expected to grow exponentially to $127B by 2020. Although drones have started to make an impact outside of military applications, they have not penetrated mainstream markets, due to the lag on legislation overseeing unmanned aerial vehicles. Drones have become relatively inexpensive to make, and we see this trend continuing as demand for drone technology increases. As Amazon, Walmart and other retailers experiment with Drone technology, this could spell bad news for shipping and logistic companies such as FedEx and UPS, however, it is likely logistics firms will increase dependency on drone technology.
Given global internet penetration and mobile internet usage at an all-time high, current trend suggest digital marketing will surpass television over the next 5 years. Our belief is based on the ability to collect data about the consumer, and the quality of this data. With television and print media, there is little feedback to prove the success of the marketing campaign, whereas digital marketing allows the content creator to filter through multiple variables.
Robotics and Automation
According to the International Federation of Robotics; in 2014 robotic sales increased by 29%, with 70% of global robot sales going to 5 countries: China, Japan, United States of America, the Republic of Korea and Germany. The majority of these sales are utilized in the automotive industry, followed closely by the manufacturing of electronic devices. Given the reliability of robotics, and their negative correlation to the cost of human capital; it is in our opinion this move towards automation will continue with similar trajectory.
Mobile Internet Connectivity
Kaushik Basu, World Bank Chief Economist, recently stated “the digital revolution is transforming the world, aiding information flows, and facilitating the rise of developing nations that are able to take advantage of these new opportunities.” A perfect example was recently highlighted by the State Bank of India Chairman, Arundhati Bhatacharya, at the Consulate General of India in New York, as Bhatacharya talked about the impact investment made by SBI in rural villages, providing Wi-Fi access to communities, on a path towards a cashless society. Other examples supporting the growth of this segment are highlighted by increased mobile connectivity amongst all age groups, gaming, and healthcare and wellness monitoring.
Solar technology first discovered over a century ago, has seen widespread availability in residential homes over the last decade, and is currently the fastest growing segment within the energy sector. With companies from Walmart to Apple making commitments to go green, at Samra Wealth Management we believe companies specializing in solar technology for commercial and residential application should continue to grow at a faster pace than seen over the last decade. The rationale behind this growth is focused in 2 main areas: brand recognition as a socially responsible business, and the decreasing cost of solar technology. As we continue to see technological advancements in this area, and implementation around the globe, we expect to see solar technology in areas we have not seen before, powering personal computers and electronics, to transparent solar technology placed over windows and roads, as are currently being used in the Netherlands. When power storage solutions such as home batteries become mainstream technology, and have the ability to store power at a marketable cost, we expect to see a further increase in the area of solar technology.
Autonomous Vehicles (AV)
According to Mckinsey & Company; “it is unlikely that any on-road vehicles will feature fully autonomous drive technology in the short term,” however, automotive manufacturers are currently investing in driver assisted technology. Tesla (TSLA) has recently made autonomous driving a reality, and this trend is expected to continue as competitors enter the market, pushing the price level down.
CCS Insight reports the global wearable market will reach $14B in 2017, and is further expected to grow to $34B by 2020. Wearables represent a segment connecting the user to health and wellness, media, retail and jewelry via technology. With Virtual Reality and gaming joining the wearables segment, this segment continues to look attractive. Once commercial applications have been integrated, and become mainstream in terms of training and simulation, we believe the wearables market will surpass previous expectations.
With the Trump Administration’s promise of expansionary fiscal policy, we expect Industrials to continue on a similar trajectory as it did in 2017, with gains of 18.54%. With the prospect of a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure over the next decade, lower corporate taxes boosting business investment, and increased military spending, the near future looks good for Industrials. As with Health Care and Technology, we recommend investors seek global opportunities in both developed and emerging markets. Investors may be able to offset political risk in some areas, for instance: investors looking to gain exposure into Chinese infrastructure spending in Africa, may want to consider investing in commodities such as steel and copper, as opposed to directly investing into expansionary operations in the African continent. We believe the best method to gain exposure into these commodities is through ETF’s or structured notes.
We do expect the consumer discretionary sector to see some momentum in 2018, boosted by strong economic data. However, we recommend against investing in the sector, and investing directly into the following equities as part of a diversified portfolio: Amazon, Alibaba, and Walmart, as well as logistics firms correlated with the success of these firms: UPS, FedEx and DHL.
In January 2017, we released our fixed income recommendations in our global investment outlook. Recommending investments into high-yield corporate and emerging-market sovereign debt. As of November 30th 2017, high-yield corporate bonds returned YTD 7.2%, while emerging market sovereign debt returned 10.6%. For 2018, we recommend reducing allocations towards high-yield corporate debt, in favor of international high-yield, with an unchanged stance on emerging market sovereign debt. We advise against U.S. Government bonds, and municipals unless investors are utilizing a portfolio to generate tax-free income, or collateralizing for lending purposes. With equities expected to continue strong in 2018, we recommend investors look into convertible bonds, here in the United States and globally. Most investors are familiar with conventional fixed-income investment vehicles, convertible bonds present more confusion. “A convertible bond is a type of debt security that can be converted into a predetermined amount of the underlying company's equity at certain times during the bond's life, usually at the discretion of the bondholder.” Convertibles offer a set maturity and coupon, like conventional bonds, however, allow the investor to share in the gains of the underlying stock. During times of uncertainty, convertibles can help provide a modest return, and in today’s economy, the Global Convertible Bond Index (G300) returned 13.28% through September 2017.
Geographic Areas of Opportunity
Global political tensions continued to rise in 2017, through escalated nuclear threats from the North Korean regime, China increasing its presence in Pakistan, East Africa and the South China Sea, Russia showcasing its military hardware and continuing to promote unrest in Eastern Europe, anger erupting over President Trump’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud disrupting the norm in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and beyond. Regardless, the financial markets for the most part remain unphased. Although some investors have taken their gains off the table, according to Savita Subramanian, US Equity and Quant strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch: “stocks are still inexpensive relative to bonds amid low rates and tight spreads, and as most measures of the equity risk premium remain elevated relative to history, indicating that investors are being well compensated for taking on equity-specific risk.”
On a global perspective, we favor the United States, developed and emerging Asia, specifically China, India, Japan, Vietnam, Developed Europe ex U.K., specifically Germany, Estonia and the Nordic region. Regardless of the political turmoil in Israel and Saudi Arabia, we believe there are opportunities for risk-adjusted returns:
A “Smart City” initiative has mad Tel Aviv the start-up city, in the start-up nation of Israel. Tel Aviv’s start-up hubs and lifestyle combine to draw high-tech, life sciences, and design professionals to the city. Israel’s growing support for start-ups from both local and international investors give it an edge as a creative and entrepreneurial capital. With a population of 8.2 million, Israel enjoys the highest density of start-ups, venture capital investment, and largest R&D spending per capita in the world.
Low oil prices continue to challenge growth and fiscal sustainability in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, however, under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salam, the floodgates for direct foreign investment have opened up. Welcoming an ambitious era of vision, with Neom. Neom is a planned 10,230-square-mile transnational city and economic zone to be constructed in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia close to the border region of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt. With plans to operate as an independent economic zone – with its own laws, taxes and regulations specifically created to boost healthy growth for the region, combined with a crackdown on high ranking corruption. Saudi Arabia’s growth prospects are favorable into the foreseeable future.
In 2000, Estonia became the first country in the world to declare internet a basic human right, and later went on to become a paperless society, incentivizing their citizens to utilize the internet for a variety of tasks, including opening a bank account, applying for birth certificates and even paying taxes. “Exceeding 4% in 2017, economic growth is expected to decline to 3% in 2019”, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. However, at Samra Wealth Management, it is our belief that Estonia will continue to attract foreign direct investment further accelerating its economic expansion.
The Nordic Region
With an increased emphasis on renewable energy, the happiness of their citizens, entrepreneurial friendly policies and the best education systems in the world, the investment for the Nordic Region looks to pay off in 2018 and beyond. The Nord’s have effectively driven down operating costs, from utilizing outsourcing and investing in cheaper and sustainable energy infrastructure. They’ve started a war for talent, where top college graduates are investing their futures at home, as opposed to immigrating towards the West.
According to the European Commission: The German economy is expected to maintain a strong growth momentum over the forecast horizon driven by domestic demand and supported by robust world trade and a firming recovery in the euro area. The strength of the labor market means that real wages should continue rising, making for brisk private consumption growth. Improved demand prospects and high capacity utilization are set to boost business investment. The German’s have shown animosity against the Brits, moving trade away from the UK, however, Germany stands to be the key beneficiary of Brexit, with the largest financial institutions opting to relocate to Frankfurt.
China’s economic growth is expected to slow in 2018, from an estimated 6.8% in 2017 to 6.4% in 2018, and 6.3% in 2019. However, a slowing economy at these levels should not be cause for concern. As President Trump attempts to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), these actions have prompted talks between Mexico and China, and should be concerning to the U.S. According to the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission: China is an important market for U.S. firms, but policies outlined in the 13th Five-Year Plan seek to create new Chinese competitors that will be able to challenge U.S. companies abroad while slowly closing market opportunities in China for U.S. and other foreign firms in important high-tech sectors such as biopharmaceuticals, robotics, and aviation. A growing skilled middle-class, and human migration from rural areas to the bigger cities, shows a contrast between U.S. GDP at 3% and China’s GDP at 6.8%. China has heavily invested in infrastructure: roads, railways and factories, creating jobs, and establishing an economy that is becoming less dependent on corporate credit, as increased wages fuel a thriving consumer driven economy. BlackRock recently released a 2018 Global Investment Outlook, with concerns of “much needed economic reforms risk slowing growth and triggering temporary credit crunches” in China. However, with President Xi Jinping recent vote of confidence, combined with a crackdown on corruption, we believe China is likely to see more Direct Foreign Investment, and trade deals between Mexico, Canada and Europe. At Samra Wealth Management, it is our recommendation that investors stop looking at China as a hub for outsourcing, and off-shoring manufacturing operations, and start looking at China as the largest exporter of highly-skilled college educated workers. Unlike education systems in most of the world, the Chinese education system effectively prepares college graduates to enter the workforce. The Chinese have talked about devaluing the RMB, however, investments in infrastructure, new rules on currency outflows, and central bank decisions, look to cause a reversal between the relationship between the USD and RMB(CNY). Investments made in China should be made in local currency, on a non-hedged basis.
Although recent reforms may have slowed down the Indian economy, with the somewhat controversial, demonetization in India. Demonetization, a crackdown on corruption, and the world’s largest biometric scanning system (Aadhaar) give Indian equities reasons to outperform emerging markets for the foreseeable future.
However, given Narendra Modi’s ability to strengthen the Indian economy by making India an easier place to do business, and inviting in direct foreign investment. India has something that is attractive to many foreign corporations: a young population and a rapidly growing educated middle-class. Organizations from the National Basketball Association (NBA), Disney, Coca-Cola and Microsoft have poured billions of dollars into the Indian economy, attempting to capture additional market share, with a population that overshadows that of developed nations. With the addition of Aadhaar, a biometric scanning system utilizing both retinal and 10-finger prints, the Modi government is now bringing banking, and will at some point be followed by taxation, to India’s rural areas. With 1.19 billion people, and 99% of all Indians above the age of 18 registered, India has created a digital foundation, which will allow rural India to soon have access to banking, internet access, and education. This strategy will support the Indian Rupee, any investments made in the Indian equity markets should be made with a non-hedged strategy.
Behind the U.S. Japan is our favored market, given the Bank of Japan’s continued stimulus and resilience to both Brexit and the U.S. Election, with low inflation these stimulus measures by the BOJ look to provide a jolt to the Japanese equity markets. Snap elections boosted confidence, with continued Quantitative easing, increased spending towards military and a weakening Yen against the dollar, causes concerns of foreign-yield risk, and we therefore recommend any investments in the Japanese markets be made on a currency hedged basis. Investors should remain cautious, given the threat from North Korea, however, we believe it is unlikely the Japanese are under any real threat. Although China has allowed North Korea to continue with its rhetoric, it should be noted that South Korea and Japan are some of China’s largest trading partners, in comparison to North Korea, and it is unlikely China will allow the current regime to affect its business relationships.
Given the landscape of investments across geographical territories, we are recommending against direct investments, or exposure to the following: Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the U.K. From Europe holding animosity against the U.K. in the aftermath of Brexit, Sub-Saharan African conflict caused by climate change and sectarian violence, and political instability in Latin America where political leaders have been charged with corruption, while militia groups have used military helicopters to attack court houses and government buildings. It is important to note: we are not stating that there is no investment opportunity worthwhile in these regions, however, given the elevated levels of risk, there are other opportunities across the globe. The one exception to this rule, would be investments in socially responsible investment vehicles, where the underlying investments are heavily researched and monitored.
Alternative Investment Allocation
Performance in 2018 will not come without volatility, given the uncertainty in the months ahead, we continue to recommend managed strategies over passive themes. For those investors who are unable to stomach the volatility we recommend an introduction to Alternative Investment’s, as a way to help dampen volatility. Investments other than traditional (Cash, Stock, and Bonds), typically consisting of allocations towards real estate, hedge funds, private equity, commodities, and more recently cryptocurrency. These investments have little to no correlation with stocks and bonds. Modern portfolio theory states investors can optimize returns, lowering volatility by allocating a portion of their portfolios towards alternative investments. Although alternatives can help mitigate risk, it should be noted that alternative investments carry their own risks, and may not be suitable for all investors.
With gold seeing an increase of 13.68% in 2017, we expect gold to see similar volatility throughout 2018, with an average price of $1350. However, President Trump’s policies are already causing volatility in the political landscape, we expect to see some investors move out of equities and fixed income into cash and alternatives, potentially pushing gold over $1400. We however, do not expect to see gold reach new highs.
Given the global infrastructure boom, we expect to see industrial metals specifically copper and steel rise in value. With a campaign promise of a $1 trillion infrastructure bill, and economic expansion throughout India, China and Africa (mainly by the Chinese), this will be a great year for industrial metals. Although metals such as cobalt and lithium do not trade like typical commodities, these metals are heavily used in batteries, and as demand for mobile technology, electric and hybrid vehicles increases, we expect to see a correlated increase in demand for these metals, further increasing returns.
We expect WTI to average $53/bbl, and we continue to see global demand increase in 2018, consumption led by the militaries of the world. Although global demand is expected to see an increase, technology in mining and refining will keep up with the additional demand. As the World Bank pledges to stop investing in oil and gas exploration, and more corporations look to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers, we believe the price of oil will remain steady throughout 2018. Our consensus on oil is further strengthened as suppliers of oil and natural gas in the middle-east look to reduce their dependency on revenue generated from fossil fuels.
Private Real Estate/Private Equity
We expect 2018 to be a great year for both commercial and residential real estate. Although home sales were down from March 2017 to August 2017, a closer look into the numbers shows the reason for low home sales was due to a lack of available inventory. With the advent of a revised corporate tax and repatriation bill, businesses have already committed to creating jobs, and increasing employee bonuses. Combined with the wealth effect that will come along with share buy-backs, as stock prices soar in 2018, the residential real estate market looks to have one of its best years. Although the recent changes to the tax code do not affect all states equally, with the elimination of state tax deductions, we expect those states with the highest property taxes to see a human migration net outflow, increasing in 2019, when effects of the new tax plan are realized. States such as New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Vermont will see a net outflow to: North and South Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Tennessee and Virginia, further accelerating the residential real estate market.
With regards to commercial real estate activity, as firms are flushed with cash due to repatriation and a favorable tax bill, it is likely there will be an uptick in infrastructure spending. We expect to see a decline in retail focused real estate, however an increase in hospital and medical facilities, warehouses, and a new category: “experiences”.
During times of uncertainty and market volatility, Hedge Funds have helped dampen the risk in a portfolio, while providing opportunities for higher return. However, historically hedge funds tend to perform better in bear markets, with a record number of hedge funds closing down in 2017. Although the Hedge Fund HFRI Index returned a YTD return of 7.57% through November 2017, we recommend against Hedge Fund investments for the first half of 2018.
At Samra Wealth Management we believe cryptocurrency is the evolutionary next step for fiat currency. Although Bitcoin may have been first to market, we believe in its current form Bitcoin will not replace fiat currency. With over 1200 different cryptocurrencies to choose from, we would recommend investors select ETF’s and exchange traded pooled investments vehicles with exposure to cryptocurrency. Investors should be aware that cryptocurrency is a highly volatile asset class, and where traditional volatile investments may have a standard deviation of 10%, investors may experience daily swings of 20% or more. As long as investors understand these risks, we believe in 2018, cryptocurrency is likely to become more mainstream and therefore continue to surge in value. These gains are likely to come early in the year, as hedge funds and investors sitting in cash look to capitalize on the momentum.
All information contained herein is derived from sources deemed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed. All economic and performance data is historical and not indicative of future results. All views/opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views/opinions held by Advisory Services Network, LLC. The information and material contained herein is of a general nature and is intended for educational purposes only. This does not constitute a recommendation or a solicitation or offer of the purchase or sale of securities. Before investing or using any strategy, individuals should consult with their tax, legal, or financial advisor.
While structured notes may enable individual retail investors to participate in investment strategies that are not typically offered to them, these products can be very complex and have significant investment risks. Before investing in structured notes, you should understand how the notes work and carefully consider their risks.
Stock Index prices are listed as of the close of business December 29, 2017, and do not take into consideration any reinvested dividends.
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