The stock market resembles a locomotive as it heads into 2018.

Low interest rates, near-record employment, healthy corporate earnings, global economic strength and a mostly-business-friendly Trump administration that saw through an overhaul of the tax system has propelled the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index to a 20 percent gain as measured by price. If your throw in dividends, the total return grows to more than 21 percent on the year.

Not bad, considering people were calling the early returns in 2017 a “Trump Bump.”

What happened?

Back up a few years.

“The global economy was depressed during 2015 by the plunge in the commodities industries around the world,” said Ed Yarden of Yardeni Research. “It didn’t cause a global recession, but it did cause a global slowdown. In other words, 2015 was a global synchronized mini-bust. “

“Then 2016 was a global synchronized recovery from that bust,” Yardeni said. “And 2017 was the beginning of what turned into a global synchronized boom that lasts in 2018.”

Yardeni predicts the S&P 500 will hit 3,100 by the end of 2018. That’s a generous pop of 16 percent from present day. He expects a similar increase in the Dow Jones industrial average, a widely watched metric of 30 major U.S. companies that saw high-flying gains in 2017.

Yardeni and others say the present conditions, barring a war or other Black Swan event, offer a rare occasion when the stars are aligned for stocks. He said the push will come from rising earnings. But there are other salutary factors, as well.

“China has been providing an enormous stimulus,” he said. “They are pumping $2 trillion in increases in the bank loans the past 12 months. The Bank of Japan and the European Central Bank monetary policy remain very easy. Then, of course, there is a little circularity here. Rising stock prices have created rising wealth effect around the world. It all adds up to a remarkably good environment for earnings. It’s hard to picture a more bullish environment when you have the global economy growing at a good clip with no inflation.”

Barron’s recently published its annual outlook from its panel of 10 investment strategists, including Yardeni. The mean 2018 outlook for the Barron’s group came in at 2,840 for the S&P, with Yardeni’s prediction at the high end.

You cannot talk about the 2017 stock market without including the torrid returns of technology stocks, led by the so-called FANGs – Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google’s parent Alphabet.

They were all home runs. Amazon (whose founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post), Facebook and Netflix all locked in gains of about 55 percent for the year. Alphabet was up more than 30 percent, and Microsoft was up 38 percent.

“They are generating lots of earnings by disrupting everyone else’s business models, forcing their competitors to become more competitive,” said Yardeni, calling it a “healthy development.” “The FANGs are likely to continue to lead our economy and stock prices higher.


Read more: http://www.dailyherald.com/business/20171231/it-was-a-year-of-wins-for-investors-will-stocks-keep-climbing-in-2018

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