A Cautiously Optimistic Market Outlook from GSAM

Goldman Sachs Asset Management predicts the world’s major economies will grind out another year of modest growth in 2016, even as central bank policies diverge.

Joining the annual chorus of year-end market reporting, Goldman Sachs Asset Management (GSAM) has published a cautiously optimistic guide to global markets trends taking shape for 2016.

From a global perspective, GSAM expects the long expansion to keep getting longer, suggesting the world’s major economies will likely grind out another year of modest returns. Zooming in on the U.S. markets, the firm thinks the economy is “strong enough to warrant a gradual increase in interest rates in 2016,” but the combination of tighter financial conditions and weak global demand will probably keep growth in the low 2% area.

“Rising debt loads in the U.S. corporate sector and emerging markets create security-specific risks,” the report suggests, “but we don’t view them as a global growth risk for 2016.” It’s been a long time coming, GSAM observes, but global institutional investors are now facing an environment of truly divergent central bank policies—likely to increase volatility and even lead to “policy related volatility spikes” during the year.

Still, GSAM predicts volatility will be manageable and that investors will do better to stay in the game—especially long-horizon retirement plan investors. Even factors such as China’s ongoing slowdown likely won’t bring enough drag to stifle growth for globally diversified investors: “After a turbulent 2015, we expect China to remain a source of market volatility, but for policymakers to prioritize growth and stability. We also expect the impact of its economic transition to become more nuanced across emerging economies.”

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Considering key markets outside the U.S., GSAM puts its topline China growth prediction for 2016 “somewhere north of 6%,” aided in part by further targeted stimulus by the People’s Bank of China.

In the U.K., GSAM predicts growth is likely to “remain in the low 2% range in 2016, with contributions from consumption and business investment. We think the Bank of England may raise interest rates in the first half of the year.” In the Eurozone more broadly GSAM expects growth in 2016 will be well below that in the U.S. and U.K., probably closer to 1.4% with inflation struggling to top 1%—all of this despite continued heavy policy stimulus.

In Japan, “strengthening domestic demand should help growth recover modestly in 2016,” with inflation still well below target. “We think the Bank of Japan (BoJ) may ease policy further in the first half of the year,” the report concludes.

When it comes to building portfolios, GSAM “expects another year of modest market returns in equity and fixed income, underscoring the potential roles of high-conviction views, alternative strategies and focused security selection.”

More in-depth findings and helpful infographics are presented here