A new administration has taken office, and the world is watching. With an ambitious agenda aimed at reducing regulation and stimulating economic growth, President Trump hit the ground running with a wide range of executive orders. While President Trump seems to be staying true to his campaign promises, there are still a lot of questions about what will happen with some of the big promises like trade negotiations, fiscal stimulus and tax reform.
Despite the political noise, investors have generally stayed level headed and focused on how companies are performing. With a little more than half of the companies in the S&P 500 Index reporting fourth quarter 2016 earnings, we are encouraged to see growth accelerating. According to Factset, the earnings growth rate on S&P 500 companies is on track for 4.6%. This will be a second straight quarter of earnings growth, and things are looking good for 2017. Earnings growth is currently forecast to reach 11.1% (source: Factset). Rising earnings are typically good for investors.
Elsewhere in the world, central banks, European elections, and Brexit are all in focus. At the end of January three major central banks-the European Central Bank, Bank of Japan and U.S. Federal Reserve-kept policy and short-term interest rates the same. Germany, France, and the U.K. all have upcoming elections and markets will be looking to see if the rise of populism will influence these elections. If the recent past is any indicator of the future, investors should remain cautious when basing decisions on polls. Lastly, the U.K. is planning to file for divorce from the European Union (EU) in March, and the U.K. will be begin the long process of negotiating trade deals with the rest of the world. Member nations of the EU will be watching intently as they gauge the benefit of their membership in the EU.
The old saying that the only constant is change is quite relevant now. While all of this noise can absorb our focus, it is important to both stay informed and keep perspective. We continue to believe that a globally diversified portfolio that can participate in many of the major global trends, but also help weather volatility, is a prudent way to invest. Further, it is always important to keep perspective on your long term goals. Helping you achieve them is our top priority and we don’t want noise to get in the way.