The Best Ideas and Biggest Risks for Investors in 2017
Which investing ideas get you excited? And which market risks, real or imagined, keep you awake at night?
Every investor has a different answer to those questions, of course, but the answers have even wider implications when they come from seasoned investing pros. Every year, we invite five such pros to share their thoughts about the year ahead as panelists on the Fortune Investor Roundtable. This year’s panel had plenty of insights about where they saw the markets going in 2017, along with a range of stock-picking ideas. (For a full-length version of their discussion, click here.) And their answers to our closing question – where do you see the biggest opportunities and the biggest risks in the year ahead? – were as varied as they were revealing. Edited responses appear below.
MATT HEIMER: Heather, looking ahead at 2017, where do you see the greatest potential risks, and the greatest potential opportunities?
HEATHER KENNEDY MINER, Global head of Strategic Advisory Solutions, Goldman Sachs Asset Management: We still believe equities offer the best risk-adjusted return in this marketplace. And our favorite strategy right now is a buy-write strategy where you stay invested in the market overall, but you write call premiums to generate income for your portfolio.
In a mid-single-digit return environment, the buy-write will outperform the S&P 500 80% of the time, at lower volatility.
One thing we haven’t talked about today is the significant rise of populism and what that has meant in terms of political outcomes–clearly the Brexit outcome earlier this year, and the unexpected Trump victory. As we look forward to 2017, there are two important elections in France and Germany, and there’s been a pretty significant rise in nontraditional parties who are getting a fairly significant portion of the vote. If we continue to see this rise of populism impacting political outcomes, I do think that could be a potential source of volatility in the markets.
KRISHNA MEMANI, Chief Investment Officer, OppenheimerFunds: The fact that monetary policy couldn’t get us to our destination [of faster growth] was becoming pretty obvious to everyone. What changed in late 2016 was the potential of that dialogue changing meaningfully. So a Brexit, a Donald Trump effectively brought to the world the notion that we have to do something dramatic on the fiscal side.
And if that actually comes about, then we have the potential of breaking out of some of these structural issues that we have been facing for a long time. So I would view that as a political opportunity.
And the risk is something along the same lines. That is while the outlook for growth has improved, there’s a potential that the Federal Reserve gets forced into tightening much sooner than the gradual talk that they have been talking for a long time. And as a result, we end up with a recession in 2018.
HEIMER: Three hikes and a stumble.
MEMANI: Yes. And do I consider that to be a likely outcome? No, but it is a risk scenario that I have to incorporate in my investing.
HEIMER: Sarah, how about you? Best opportunity and biggest risk.
SARAH KETTERER, CEO, Causeway Capital Management: The biggest risk that we face, as fundamental value managers in our developed markets strategies and funds, is that bond yields recede. And that would be because this reflationary environment dissipates and it looks as if we’re going back into a period of economic malaise. That would be bad news for value stocks in general.
Investors are now seeing that banks, industrials, some of these other interest rate sensitive stocks are moving upward and they continue to buy them. That’s where we want to be positioned, because we think that’s the lowest-risk trade out there. Own undervalued companies that are paying out increasing amounts of their earnings in dividends so that our clients are getting paid to wait for future performance.
HEIMER: Sebastien, how about you?
SEBASTIEN PAGE, Co-head, Asset Allocation Group, T. Rowe Price: Biggest risk: interest rate risk. We’ve just been through this environment during which the 10-year Treasury bond yielded less than dividend yields on stocks. This is very unusual by historical standards. Post-election they’ve come back close to parity. But this has led some commentators to say, “Well, it’s an upside down world.” Rates keep coming down. People are buying bonds for capital gains, and they’re buying stocks for income.
Interest-rate risk means that this could revert pretty quickly. So we’re worried in particular about interest-rate risk outside the U.S. given how low rates are to begin with, even at the moment, following the recent slight spike in rates.
We take a six- to 18-month horizon and we look at relative valuations between asset classes. Right now, we’re hedging some of that [rate risk] and we recognize that some of that inflation, interestingly, might not be priced into TIPS. That might be the opportunity at the moment. TIPS break even around 1.9. And actual CPI is running at 2.2%. So we think there’s room for that gap to narrow, and were taking some positions in TIPS.
HEIMER: Ann, how about you?
ANN WINBLAD, co-founder and managing partner, Hummer Winblad Venture Partners: We’ve talked a lot today about how innovation and technology, here in the U.S. and globally, is really a driver for lifting many companies that we’ve thought of as ‘old economy’ suddenly leaning into a new economy.
My biggest concerns are on the intellectual capital front. Immigration, the ability to globalize these companies, starts with entrepreneurs from around the world. I’m not worried about the entrepreneurs themselves innovating. But how will policy affect immigration, or the ability to globalize these companies?
We also have rising education costs and student debt. And that’s been left off the table in any discussions but I think it’s an impactful issue for the U.S. economy specifically, and for the entrepreneurs that are the force driving the economy forward.
On the other hand, as you may recall, Apple and Microsoft were started in 1975 and ’76. We don’t want to go back to those economic times or that presidency, but these were challenging times during which great companies were created.
This is part of Fortune’s 2017 Investor’s Guide, which appears in the Dec. 15, 2016 issue of Fortune magazine.