10 themes Goldman Sachs thinks will dominate markets in 2015

 
Emma Haslett
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Low inflation and further stability in emerging markets will characterise next year, suggests Goldman Sachs (Source: Getty)

It's the most wonderful time of the year - the time banks, analysts and other finance futurologists dust off their crystal balls and start trying to work out what the market's going to be thinking about next year.

Goldman Sachs has got in there early, with its "Top 10 market themes for 2015" research note. What does Goldman predict for next year? We're glad you asked...

1. A broadening recovery

No kidding: we'd hope so. Goldman says it expects "above-trend" growth in the US to be maintained next year and into the next few years, and although China's growth may slow a little, other emerging markets should begin to pick up the pace. And what's more, while investors have priced an element of improvement into their calculations, it believes its views on the high potential of the recovery in both the US and Europe are "controversial". Its biggest worries are "a re-emergence of Euro and political area tensions", a "deflationary mindset" in Germany and the risk of a "sharper downward shock" from China's housing and credit imbalances.

2. Divergence between developed markets

The divergence between growth in, say, the US and European economies, has "emerged as a key theme" in 2014 - but Goldman suspects that, given the deceptively weak US first quarter GDP figures, that gap will actually narrow - but only slightly. Which suggests there will continue to be a divergence in output gaps, as well as in monetary policy. When will economies raise rates? Goldman says it'll be the fourth quarter of 2015 before that happens in the UK.

3. The new oil order

Abundant shale reserves in the US have pushed oil into positive supply, forcing prices down by $30 per barrel. "It is important to see the scope for downside surprises is not finished", though. This will have the knock-on effect of "reinforcing the downside risks" of industrial metals, but will also give oil importers some spare cash to play with, as well as affecting equities in oil companies and putting (further) pressure on oil-reliant countries, such as Russia and Nigeria.

4. Low inflation = "lowflation"

The International Monetary Fund's favourite new saying isn't an elegant portmanteau, but Goldman has committed to it: even against modest growth, lowflation will continue to remain powerful, it says - even in markets like the US. "Although our central case sees a modest stabilisation in inflation this year, there is a meaningful risk that a more acute deflationary mindset takes hold instead". The European Central Bank is already wending its merry way towards credit easing, while the Bank of Japan has committed to raising inflation expectations. But the road to success may involve "consider[ing] further steps towards easing, or at least welcome further currency depreciation as part of their own efforts to prevent inflation from falling further".

5. The strengthening dollar

Continued strength in the US dollar "arguably remains our strongest asset market view looking through 2015". By the end of 2015, EUR/USD should be at 1.15, while USD/JPY will be at 130, and the dollar will also continue to strengthen against currencies in emerging markets. In fact, if you look at it from a historical perspective, its strength so far "looks modest".

6. Rate-watch continues

The overarching question so far has been about when the Fed will raise rates. For what it's worth, Goldman reckons it'll be September - but that's not the real debate, it adds. The real debate in 2015 will be "where the funds rate is ultimately heading". The answer? It will probably take it "higher than the market predicts" - but the "tightening process" will prove "manageable". There may be "bouts of volatility" as part of markets' readjustment to "normalisation of policy", "but we doubt that will prove disruptive for risk assets or the economy in a sustained way".

7. China's growth slows even further

Goldman expects growth of between six and seven per cent in China over the next couple of years, "a sharper slowing" than in 2014. The best opportunities will come if investors bide their time and wait for their peers to "move towards extreme pessimism". Recent shifts will also create "local opportunities" - but be cautious over property credits, copper and general commodity prices: the "slowing housing and investment cycle" is likely to put pressure on them.

8. Emerging markets: More polarisation

The good news is that following the "taper tantrum", emerging markets are likely to enter 2015 "in better health", says the note. Inflation is supporting five to 10 year bonds in India, which is "likely to further entrench the credibility" of its new inflation target. But emerging markets are likely to polarise - India and Turkey will benefit, while South African and Brazilian currencies are likely to be weakened by falls in commodity prices. Then there are the ongoing problems in Venezuela, Ukraine, Russia and Argentina, which will carry on into 2015.

9. Low volatility

The VIX average for 2014 is the "lowest of the recovery so far", despite the odd panic, and all the economic indicators suggest that's likely to "persist into 2015". But there are threats to this. Fresh financial shocks and further tightening in the labour market, as well as diminished liquidity, could all cause rate volatility to move "persistently higher" next year.

10. Lower returns than we're used to

"It is striking that many assets... are priced to offer low absolute rates of return over the coming years," says Goldman. But the earnings yield on equities "still makes them more attractive" than asset classes such as sovereign bonds on a relative basis, although the risk of the kind of sharp pullback which has eroded months of gains in one fell swoop several times during 2014 will remain. The result? Foreign exchange returns are likely to become a "more important component of overall returns across countries", while "hedging choices [will be] more critical". It finishes by pondering emerging markets equities. "We find ourselves thinking that they offer at least the possibility of significantly higher returns than in developed markets over the medium term, even if they still offer significantly more risk." So there you go.

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