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For ordinary Americans, 2017 is likely to feel like the best year economically since the Great Recession.
The recovery is finally expected to trickle down to you in the form of an improved job market, higher wages, and growing spending power. “These are things we’ve been talking about since 2012 or 2013,” says Tim Hopper, chief economist for TIAA Global Asset Management. “And now it’s finally here.”
And, despite the advanced age of this bull, your improving fortunes just may keep U.S. stocks chugging along too, as consumers represent 70% of the U.S. economy, says Nariman Behravesh, chief economist for IHS Markit. Still, with economic growth expected to remain sluggish at 2.2%—and there are plenty of unknowns surrounding the new Donald Trump presidency, especially over trade policies.
Still, tailwinds that are forming at the intersection of Wall Street and Main Street “should help stocks make some decent progress,” says Jeffrey Kleintop, chief global investment strategist at Charles Schwab. Expect another year like 2016, with mid-single-digit gains.
Earnings for S&P 500 companies are expected to surge 12% in 2017, after being flat this year. Helping drive that: consumers with more dollars in their pockets.
Household spending has been meh, to use a technical term. But that should perk up along with pay. Average hourly wages could grow 3% to 3.5% in 2017, says Hopper. That could jump to 3.5% to 4% should Trump’s promised infrastructure spending produce jobs. “The more you push job growth, the more you push wage growth,” Hopper says.
These are the best moves to make to turn a decent year into a great one financially.
Pick sailboats over motorboats...
Investors in recent years favored shares of companies that don’t require a strong economy to excel.
Burt White, chief investment officer at LPL Financial, refers to these stocks as “motorboats,” since they generate their own motion. Now he says it’s time to look at “sailboats” that are powered by economic strength. They include technology shares that benefit from consumer spending, as well as retailers such as Home Depot and Lowe’s.
An added advantage: These stocks are relatively cheap. Tech shares in the S&P 500, for instance, are trading at an 8% discount to their historical average price/earnings ratio, while the broad market is trading at a 10% premium. In our Money 50 recommended list, T. Rowe Price Blue Chip Growth holds half its assets in economically sensitive tech and consumer discretionary stocks.
...But don’t go overboard
Though equities are expected to rise for a ninth straight year, strategists and portfolio managers warn investors not to get overly optimistic. After all, the bull market is already more than twice as old as the typical rally.
Rather than boosting your exposure to equities, you might add a small dose of high-yielding junk bonds, says Terri Spath, chief investment officer at Sierra Investment Management.
Junk bonds are highly correlated with equities but offer some cushion. In 2008 junk bonds suffered only 70% of the losses of the broad equity market. Yet over the past 15 years, junk bonds have generated an average annual gain of 7%, which is nearly identical to the return for the U.S. stock market. A solid junk bond fund is Fidelity High Income , which is on our Money 50 list.