WalletHub released its 10 Financial Predictions for 2016, with the marquee call being that U.S. GDP growth will be roughly 2.4%, lagging the worldwide average of roughly 3%.
The finance news and information website's predictions,
which are based in part on conversations with a panel of leading economics and finance experts:
- U.S. GDP Growth Will Be Roughly 2.4%, Lagging the Worldwide Average of Roughly 3%
- The U.S. Will Approach “Full Employment”
- The S&P 500 Will End The Year At 2,188
- U.S. Auto Sales Will Flirt With 18 Million
- Oil Prices Will Post A Modest Rebound
- The Fed Will Raise Rates Once In 2016, Bringing Its Median Target Rate to 0.625%
- The Housing Market Will Be Marked By Slowed Growth, Higher Costs
- Credit Availability Will Contract As Interest Rates & Defaults Rise
- Medical Records Will Become An Increasingly Attractive Target For Identity Thieves Relative To Credit Info
- Fannie & Freddie Will Say Farewell To FICO
The United States economy is widely expected to be characterized by slower growth during 2016, with the word “tepid” frequently being employed in the context of projections.
This only makes sense, after all, considering that the U.S. has for years been at the vanguard of the recovery from the Great Recession and many economies are just now beginning to catch up. What’s more, uncertainty borne from a variety of headwinds that emerged during the course of 2015 – which resulted in widespread estimate cuts during the year – is expected to limit growth in 2016.
“I expect the growth to be in the lower end of the range between 2.4% to 2.5%,” said Donald Atwater, a professor of economics at Pepperdine University. “The reasons are the uncertainties surrounding oil and commodity markets, rising interest rates, and disruptions from El Niño, terrorism, and the national election.”
Meanwhile, “the labor market will continue to be a theme,” said Julie Heath, director of the University of Cincinnati’s Economic Center. “The unemployment rate will drop even further, perhaps down to the mid-4’s, although probably more slowly as the slack in the labor market is taken up. That tightening will result in higher wages, but again, that will happen with a lag and slowly.”
Employment gains will not, however, quell discussions about income inequality in the months to come. Wages are only projected to grow at a modest 3% clip, and a significant share of income gains in recent years have gone to the top 1% of earners.
“Given that 2016 is a presidential election year, coupled with the fact that the continuing economic, social, and political issue confronting not only the U.S. but the world is inequality, I would expect that to be the biggest economic theme confronting us in the year ahead,” said Allen R. Sanderson, a senior lecturer in economics at the University of Chicago.
Embellishing its other calls, WalletHub said:
- 2015 was a largely lost year for the stock market, with the S&P 500 entering January at 2,058 before dropping to 2,022 by mid-December amid chaos in energy markets and fears of a Fed rate hike. The market is expected to recover modest gains by year’s end as fund managers strive to hit performance benchmarks, but that does not equate to a rosy outlook for the New Year – at least not immediately. We should therefore brace for some more turbulence in 2016 – especially income investors – but the long-term set-up appears strong, considering the dearth of alternative investment opportunities and the underlying strength in the economy.
- Nearly 16 million vehicles had been sold through November 2015 – 5.4% above 2014’s pace – and the total is projected to hit 17.3 million by year’s end. “If prices stay low for fuel, there will be more money available for other goods,” said Robert O. Weagley, chair of the personal financial planning department at the University of Missouri. “Transportation is about 17% to 18% of the American consumers’ total expenditures, so the overall effect would be greater than if the same price change occurred in an area that takes up a smaller portion of consumers’ budgets.”
- Carnage in the oil markets characterized much of 2015, with the cost of a barrel of crude oil crashing into the mid-$30’s in December from an intra-year high of $65.56 in May. We may be talking about $30 per barrel oil early in 2016,” said Mark Johnson, an assistant professor of finance at Loyola University Maryland. “At some point, oil will rise as the active rig count continues to decrease and production starts to slow. I could see oil finishing 2016 at $40 to $45 per barrel.”
- We know that the Federal Reserve will increase its target federal funds rate slowly. Just how slowly remains to be seen, however, depending on the economy’s reaction to its first jolt from near-zero levels in more than nine years. "The very likely increases in the federal funds rate will also cause a rise in mortgage rates,” said Nestor Azcona, an assistant professor of economics at Babson College. “However their effect on 15 or 30-year mortgage rates will probably be moderate, since current mortgage rates already take into account the expected increase in short-term rates during 2016.”
- The real estate market has been solid in 2015, perhaps surprisingly so. And although this recovery will continue to a certain extent in 2016, long-awaited headwinds should slow the pace of growth.
- Credit has been increasingly available in recent years as household finances have recovered from the Great Recession, economic policy has promoted consumption and lenders have jockeyed for position in a new-age banking hierarchy. “I don't expect any major change in the availability of credit for those with good credit scores,” said Ann Dryden Witte, a professor of economics at Wellesley College. “However, families and small businesses with lower scores will likely see some tightening of credit as bankruptcies for high credit risk customers are beginning to rise.”
- While consumer concerns remain focused on retail data breaches and payment card security, assuming the point of their financial spear to be most vulnerable and in need of protection in the wake of Target’s difficulties, identity thieves seem to have largely moved on. Healthcare data, in particular, appears to be a common target because it contains a wealth of personal information that can be used to file false insurance claims or serve as a building block for seemingly unrelated financial fraud in the future.
- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac base loan approval criteria on outdated versions of the FICO credit score released in 2004, which in turn means those are the scores used by most lenders. Not only have credit scores come a long way in the past decade-plus in terms of their predictive capabilities, but the old models used by FICO don’t even generate a score for millions of people who may otherwise be able to qualify for a loan.
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