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Investment experts Bob Homan (ING), Han Dieperink (Rabobank) and Gerben Jorritsma (ABN Amro) are in agreement that equities will be the most lucrative asset class for investors in 2017. But they all also have individual views on which other areas they favor, varying from high yield bonds and commodities to real estate.
Are you ready to rumble? The three investment experts and Robeco Chief Economist Léon Cornelissen entered the arena like gladiators, each making a short pitch in which they tried to convince the asset managers, investment advisors and bankers in the audience of their views on the financial markets and investing in general.
“2017 will be the year when things get back to normal with steady global economic growth and rising inflation”, stated Gerben Jorritsma. The Global Head of Investment Strategy & Portfolio Expertise at ABN AMRO Bank sees evidence that confidence among consumer and producers has returned.
Jorritsma made a few distinctions between his ideas and Robeco's economic outlook. “ABN Amro expects a strong economic recovery whereas Robeco Solutions Chief Investment Officer Lukas Daalder has a more moderate view. “Perhaps the economy will grow more and inflation will increase further than we are now predicting. The economy does not follow the calendar year and the third quarter of 2016 was the turning point for the market. Fundamental factors also carry more weight than political factors. It's only the facts that count.
So, according to Jorritsma, 2017 will remain the year of equities for investment portfolios. “I expect to see double digit earnings growth for stocks. And as long as Treasury yields stay below 3% and the European ten-year at 1%, bonds will remain out of favor.”
“Unseen dangers always pose the biggest threat”, Han Dieperink, Chief Investment Officer of Rabobank Retail & Private Banking, reminded the audience. “Investors are focused on the more obvious issues of Donald Trump and Brexit. But the political risks of the Trump administration are not so great and I don't predict populist victories in the various European elections either.”
The unseen danger, according to Dieperink, is the risk that central banks stop their reflation efforts. “At the moment it is still a case of short and long-term rates being structurally lower than the level of economic growth, but a central bank that hikes rates aggressively could still ruin everything.”
Dieperink does not expect 2017 to differ greatly to 2016 when it comes to investing. “Equities will deliver above-average returns, while bond performance will be below average. But the outlook is not negative for all bonds, high yield is an exception.
‘Helicopter money would be an interesting experiment’
“The economy is doing pretty well”, said Bob Homan optimistically. “Productivity has been stagnant for ten years and is now picking up again.” But the head of ING's Investment Office is cautious too. “Trump's plans could cause the economy to overheat, which could result in inflation and rising national debt. Investors are aware of this. Nor do I believe in double-digit earnings growth for stocks like Gerben Jorritsma does. I think growth will be around 5%.
Homan advises opting for short duration (interest rate sensitivity) when it comes to bonds. “Bonds generate limited returns. There are some gains to be made, high yield and inflation-linked bonds still offer potential profits of 1.5% to 2%. These segments of the bond market are interesting.” Homan does feel that market sentiment is extremely positive at present. “We are neutral on equities. This is a highly contrarian view.”
Jorritsma, Dieperink, Homan and Cornelissen are given a number of hypotheses. None of them expect there to be any helicopter money in 2017. Homan and Jorritsma both expect inflation to rise. Dieperink suggests that the European Central Bank (ECB) has in fact already started tapering. “There will be little monetary activity until the German elections in the autumn. After that, accommodative monetary policy will be phased out more quickly.” Cornelissen is disappointed that money will not be distributed to the citizens of Europe. “It would be an interesting experiment. Although free money is often stashed away and so does not really help stimulate the economy.
The audience were also able to vote on the hypotheses. Almost half of those present expect the Brexit to be delayed by a year. “I actually sort of hope it will be postponed”, said Homan. “But the question is becoming increasingly irrelevant. The UK will be OK, as will Europe.” Jorritsma is aware that the United Kingdom could circumvent the regulations to leave the European Union. “Which could also cast doubt on the issue of British parliamentary approval.”
All four expect equities to perform best in the year to come. Apart from that they all have their own ideas. After equities, Homan is most positive on high yield bonds. Jorritsma also mentions real estate and commodities as profitable asset classes. Dieperink is not positive on commodities. “And on this point, I do actually agree with Dieperink”, quipped Cornelissen.