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How will the stock market finish up in 2019?

Stocks have sunk well below their all-time highs, with various major indexes across the globe having endured corrections of at least 10%, or bear market declines of 20% or more. The most widely followed barometer of U.S. stocks, the S&P 500 Index (SPX), came within a hair of a 20% bear market drop in late December and closed on January 3, 2019, at 16.8% below its record peak set in September. What lies ahead for the rest of 2019? Three respected market gurus recently offered their views.

“I’m optimistic. I think the fundamentals are sound,” is what Byron Wien, vice chairman of the Private Wealth Solutions unit at The Blackstone Group, told CNBC. He believes that the S&P 500 will gain 15% in 2019. One key to his prediction is his expectation that the Federal Reserve will not raise interest rates at all in 2019, in fact, they have started rate reductions.
“Inflation remains subdued, and the 10-year Treasury yield stays below 3.5%. The yield curve remains positive,” Wien writes in a release by Blackstone of his “Ten Surprises for 2019,” following an annual tradition that he started in 1986 when he was chief U.S. investment strategist at Morgan Stanley. “A recession before 2021 seems unlikely,” Wien also writes, adding, “improved earnings enable equities to move higher.”
Jeremy Siegel, a professor of finance at Wharton noted for his longtime advocacy of investing in stocks, predicts an advance of 5% to 15% for the S&P 500 in 2019, per another CNBC story. He observed: “We went from a rosy view to now, ‘Oh my God, there’s going to be a recession.’ The truth will be somewhere in between, and that leaves the stock market very attractive now.”
Like Wien, Siegel does not believe that a recession is likely to begin in 2019. On equities, he asserts that “this is a cheap market,” even if corporate earnings do not grow at all this year.
Meanwhile, Jack Bogle, noted for popularizing index funds during his tenure at Vanguard, sees “clouds on the horizon” and advises taking “a little extra caution” right now, per an interview with Barron’s. These clouds include high levels of government and corporate debt, as well as a “great upheaval” in international trade, which includes “the mystery of Brexit and the China trade war, which will be very disruptive to the world trade system.”
“It’s time to be thinking how much risk you want to have,” Bogle insists. Warning that “trees don’t grow to the sky,” he thinks that automatically buying on the dips in the stock market, as many index fund investors have done in recent years, is not likely to be a winning strategy right now. On the other hand, he advises those saving for long-term goals to “Keep investing, no matter how frightened you are.”

Looking ahead to late 2019-early 2020

Even those investors who share the optimism of Wien and Siegel about 2019 should heed Bogle’s warnings, and brace themselves for the inevitable unpredictable setbacks. Indeed, as Bogle suggests, investors with really long-term horizons (six months or longer) are those who are best equipped emotionally to avoid hasty, panic-driven decision making in the face of market turmoil. The China trade war status, fed interest rate decisions and President Trumps daily tweet contents will also guide the markets to the end of 2019 into 2020.


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