Vail Daily column: Predictions for 2014: An investor’s almanac

A farming almanac is an annual publication containing a guide for the coming year and a forecast of the times and statistics of events and phenomena important to growing. Farmers’ almanacs have been a source of wisdom, rooted in the core values of independence and simple living, for American growers for more than 200 years. To help you plan for what lies ahead, we are pleased to bring you our investor’s almanac. We hope our almanac will prove to be a trusted guide to the coming year filled with a wealth of wisdom for investors.

In the coming year, there are many reasons investors can return to the basics of growing and preserving their portfolios and spend less time gauging the actions of policymakers, including:

• After two “clean” lifts to the debt ceiling since 2011, which ensured any risk of default on Treasury obligations was avoided, we are unlikely to see concessions in exchange for a third increase in 2014 — making a high stakes fiscal battle unlikely.

• The Federal Reserve is likely to begin to taper its bond-purchase program, known as quantitative easing (QE), early in 2014, signaling a commitment to reducing its presence in the markets and transitioning to a post-QE environment.

• Europe is emerging from recession, which means less need for direct life support from the European Central Bank or painfully austere fiscal policy as deficit targets are eased.

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The economy and markets becoming more independent of policymakers while growth accelerates is likely to bolster investor confidence in the reliability and sustainability of the investing environment.

U.S. economic growth may accelerate to about 3 percent in 2014 after three years of steady, but sluggish, 2 percent growth. Our above-consensus annual forecast is based upon many of the drags of 2013 fading, including U.S. tax increases and spending cuts and the European recession, and growth accelerating from additional hiring and capital spending by businesses. After all, in the past three years, weakness in government spending subtracted about 0.5 percent each year from gross domestic product growth. Just adding that 0.5 percent back to GDP in 2014 would, by itself, make a material difference in achieving 3 percent growth in 2014.

Bond Market

Bond market total returns could likely be flat as yields rise with the 10-year Treasury yield ending the year at 3.25-3.75 percent. Our view for yields to rise beyond what the futures market has priced in warns of the risk in longer maturity bonds and our preference for shorter-term and credit-oriented sectors of the bond market. High-yield bonds and bank loans are two sectors that have historically proven resilient and often produced gains during periods of rising interest rates.

In 2013, both sectors were among the leaders of bond sector performance during a year of higher interest rates. Historically, longer-term bond yields have tended to track the change in GDP growth when unleashed from Federal Reserve actions. Our expectation for a 1 percent acceleration in U.S. GDP over the pace of 2013 suggests a similar move for the bond market.

Stock Market

Stock market total returns could likely be in the low double digits (10-15 percent). This gain is derived from earnings per share for S&P 500 companies growing 5-10 percent and a rise in the price-to-earnings ratio (PE) of about half a point from 16 to 16.5. The PE gain is due to increased confidence in improved growth allowing the ratio to slowly move toward the higher levels that marked the end of every bull market since World War II. As 2014 gets underway, the one-, three-, and five-year trailing annualized returns may all be in the double digits for the first time this business cycle. Our analysis of history shows that it is the five-year return that individual investors tend to chase, based on net inflows to U.S. stock funds. This may prompt many investors to reconsider the role of stocks in their portfolios, especially as interest rates rise and bond performance lags.

All-Time Highs

In 2014, there may be more all-time highs seen in the stock market and higher yields in the bond market than we have seen in years as economic growth accelerates. The primary risk to our outlook is that better growth in the economy and profits does not develop. That risk is likely to be much more significant than the distractions posed by Fed tapering and mid-term elections. We believe it will be safe in 2014 to again tune out much of the antics in Washington, D.C. as the mid-term elections turn up the volume, but not the impact. In the near term, Washington may be washed up when it comes to driving the markets.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide or be construed as providing specific investment advice or recommendations for any individual security. To determine which investments may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. All indexes mentioned are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly.

Forecasts only guesses

The economic forecasts set forth in the presentation may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful.

There is no assurance that the techniques and strategies discussed are suitable for all investors or will yield positive outcomes. The purchase of certain securities may be required to effect some of the strategies.

Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal.

Bonds are subject to market and interest rate risk if sold prior to maturity. Bond values and yields will decline as interest rates rise and bonds are subject to availability and change in price.

High yield are subject to higher interest rate, credit and liquidity risks than those graded BBB and above. They generally should be part of a diversified portfolio for sophisticated investors.

Bank loans investing involve risk including credit, interest rate, market, default and liquidity risk

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index is a capitalization-weighted index of 500 stocks designed to measure performance of the broad domestic economy through changes in the aggregate market value of 500 stocks representing all major industries.

Tracy Tutag, CFP, CDFA and Stuart Green CFP, MBA are principals of the Aprisent Financial Group.

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