New York, NY, January 3, 2017. Byron R. Wien, Vice Chairman of Multi-Asset Investing at Blackstone, today issued his list of Ten Surprises for 2017. This is the 32nd year Byron has given his views on a number of economic, financial market and political surprises for the coming year. Byron defines a “surprise” as an event that the average investor would only assign a one out of three chance of taking place but which Byron believes is “probable,” having a better than 50% likelihood of happening.
Byron started the tradition in 1986 when he was the Chief U.S. Investment Strategist at Morgan Stanley. Byron joined Blackstone in September 2009 as a senior advisor to both the firm and its clients in analyzing economic, political, market and social trends.
Byron’s Ten Surprises for 2017 are as follows:
- Still brooding about his loss of the popular vote, Donald Trump vows to win over those who oppose him by 2020. He moves away from his more extreme positions on virtually all issues to the dismay of some right wing loyalists. He insists, “The voters elected me, not some ideology.” His unilateral actions throw policy staffers throughout the government into turmoil. Virtually all of the treaties and agreements he vowed to tear up on his first day in office are modified, not trashed. His wastebasket remains empty.
- The combination of tax cuts on corporations and individuals, more constructive trade agreements, dismantling regulation of financial and energy companies, and infrastructure tax incentives pushes the 2017 real growth rate above 3% for the U.S. economy. Productivity improves for the first time since 2014.
- The Standard & Poor’s 500 operating earnings are $130 in 2017 and the index rises to 2500 as investors become convinced the U.S. economy is back on a long-term growth path. Fears about a ballooning budget deficit are kept in the background. Will dynamic scoring reducing the budget deficit actually kick in?
- Macro investors make a killing on currency fluctuations. The Japanese yen goes to 130 against the dollar, stimulating exports there. As Brexit moves closer, the British pound declines to 1.10 against the dollar, causing a surge in tourism and speculation in real estate. The euro drops below par against the dollar.
- Increased economic growth, inflation moving toward 3%, and renewed demand for capital push interest rates higher across the board. The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield approaches 4%.
- Populism spreads over Europe affecting the elections in France and Germany. Angela Merkel loses the vote in September. Across Europe the electorate questions the usefulness of the European Union and, by the end of the year, plans are actively discussed to close it down, abandon the euro and return to their national currencies.
- Reducing regulations in the energy industry leads to a surge in production in the United States. Iran and Iraq also step up their output. The increased supply keeps the price of West Texas Intermediate below $60 for most of the year in spite of increased world demand.
- Donald Trump realizes he has been all wrong about China. Its currency is overvalued, not undervalued, and depreciates to eight to the dollar. Its economy flourishes on consumer spending on goods produced at home and greater exports. Trump avoids punitive tariffs to prevent a trade war and develops a more cooperative relationship with the world’s second largest economy.
- Benefiting from stronger growth in China and the United States, real growth in Japan exceeds 2% for the first time in decades and its stock market leads other developed countries in appreciation for the year.
- The Middle East cools down. Donald Trump and his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, working with Vladimir Putin, finally negotiate a lasting ceasefire in Syria. ISIS diminishes significantly as a Middle East threat. Bashar al-Assad remains in power.
Every year there are always a few Surprises that do not make the Ten either because I do not think they are as relevant as those on the basic list or I am not comfortable with the idea that they are “probable.”
- Having grown weary of Washington after a year in the presidency, Donald Trump moves the White House to New York from April to December and to Palm Beach from January to March. He makes day trips to the Capitol on Air Force One for legislative and diplomatic purposes.
- The Democratic Party is sharply divided on strategy, with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren arguing for a shift to the left and others wanting to remain in the center. A lack of leadership gives rise to widespread speculation about sharp losses in the 2018 congressional elections.
- Donald Trump’s intimidation tactics prove effective in discouraging companies from moving some U.S. manufacturing abroad, but he fails to bring jobs back. The wage differential is just too great. This becomes his biggest first-year disappointment.
- Trump’s first major international confrontation comes, not unexpectedly, from North Korea. Kim Jong-un threatens to set off a nuclear bomb in the mid-Pacific, calling it “a test.” Trump’s advisors try to restrain his desire to punish the country severely.
- India comes back into the investment limelight. Its economy grows at 7% and corporate profits for established companies are strong. Its stock market leads other large emerging countries, along with China.
- Trump’s efforts to get out of the Iran deal fail. The other countries signing the agreement believe Iran’s weapons-grade nuclear production has been restrained and force the U.S. to remain a participant.
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The views expressed in this commentary are the personal views of Byron Wien, Vice Chairman of Multi-Asset Investing at Blackstone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Blackstone itself. The views expressed reflect the current views of Mr. Wien as of the date hereof and neither Mr. Wien nor Blackstone undertakes to advise you of any changes in the views expressed herein.