OUTLOOK 2020: Bringing Markets Into Focus

Hindsight is 20/20, but finding clarity in future uncertainty can be fuzzy.

AT LPL RESEARCH, as we look forward to the year 2020 and a new decade, some key trends and market signals will be important to watch, including progress on U.S.-China trade discussions, an encouraging outlook from corporate America, and continued strength in consumer spending.

Trade risk, slower global growth, and the impeachment inquiry have garnered a lot of the headlines recently, but behind the scenes the U.S. economy has remained resilient. Economic data has been meeting lowered expectations, indicating an expansion that is still enduring. Most recently, third quarter economic growth was consistent with the long-term trend of this current economic expansion, which is now more than 10 years old.

We expect the U.S. economy to continue to grow in 2020 and support gains for stocks, although we are increasingly mindful of our position in the business cycle. At some point in the future, this record-long expansion will come to a close, leaving investors wondering what’s next. Against this backdrop, questions about the next potential recession and the 2020 U.S. presidential election continue to be top of mind for many investors. While we can’t see into the future, one thing we can predict is that uncertainty in the markets is here to stay. And we are here to help. We offer our Outlook 2020, your guide to preparing for this dynamic—and uncertain—market environment.

Read more about our forecasts and key themes in the full publication.


This material is for general information only and is not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. The economic forecasts may not develop as predicted. Please read the full Outlook 2020: Bringing Markets Into Focus publication for additional description and disclosure. This research material has been prepared by LPL Financial LLC.

Technicals Check-In

The S&P 500 Index is currently on pace for its best year since 2013, up more than 25%. However, technical analysis is based on the idea that a market in motion may stay in motion, and six of the last seven times the index gained more than 20%, the following year saw double-digit gains. Context is also important, so while year-to-date numbers might look large, the index has gained only 9% since the January 2018 peak. In addition, and in contrast to moves earlier in the year, more cyclical sectors have been leading the market higher, with financials, industrials, and technology the top-performing sectors over the past three months. Finally, seasonality also may be a tailwind, with the November through April period historically representing the best six-month period for stocks, on average.

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Recession Watch

With stocks setting more new record highs last week, why are we concerned about watching for recession? While our outlook is still optimistic, we don’t want to be complacent. We expect steady growth in the U.S. economy and corporate profits in 2020. We are encouraged by recent progress on trade and evidence of stabilizing growth in international economies, and we expect further gains for stocks are possible.

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A Tale of Two Economies

It’s been a tale of two economies in 2019. U.S. consumers are spending at a solid rate, which we expect to continue through the important holiday shopping season that is rapidly approaching. U.S. businesses, on the other hand, are not opening up their wallets, and capital expenditures (capex) growth has stalled. Consumer sentiment has remained elevated through most of this year, while gauges of business and chief-executive officer confidence have declined to three-year lows.

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Best Six Months of the Year

We have all heard the old Wall Street adage, “Sell in May and go away.” The six-month period from May through October historically has been the worst time of year to own stocks, while the six months between November and April historically have been the best [Figure 1]. Friday, November 1, marked the start of this favorable seasonal period that, as history has shown, can stand a good chance of delivering gains for stocks. In the short term, the calendar also looks very friendly: November and December historically have been the best two months of the year for the S&P 500.

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Market Tricks and Treats

The U.S.-China trade conflict remains a wild card for U.S. and global economies, and it headlines our list of concerns. The United States and China have reportedly reached a verbal “truce,” and by all indications a phase-one agreement may be signed at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting November 16–17. China’s reported willingness to accept some level of ongoing U.S. tariffs and to discuss issues previously thought to be off the table, such as intellectual property protections, is encouraging.

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Seasonal (Tail)winds

October has had a bad reputation in the stock market. To be fair, it’s somewhat warranted—some of the stock market’s most spectacular crashes have happened in October, including the S&P 500’s 27% slide in October 2008 at the height of the financial crisis. Thankfully, we haven’t seen any moves of that magnitude this October, but investors are still on edge after a bout of market swings to start the month. Some volatility is par for the course, however, at this point in the year. Since 1950, the S&P 500 has posted more 1% daily moves in October than any other month of the year.

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Earnings May See Better Days Ahead

Corporate America is unlikely to deliver much, if any, earnings growth in the third quarter. However, we think better days lie ahead. We expect progress on trade to keep U.S. economic growth at or above the trend for the current economic expansion. The U.S.-China trade conflict is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, but we believe any small steps forward could increase business confidence and spark capital investment, lifting corporate profits. Flat earnings are hardly exciting, but we think prospects for better growth in 2020 will support stocks at current valuations.

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Lisa VanArsdale Earns Opportunity To Attend Industry Women’s Leadership Forum

Deer Park, IL — October 7, 2019 – Lisa VanArsdale, an independent financial advisor at Lakeview Wealth Management in Deer Park, IL, is the recipient of LPL Financial’s emerging advisor scholarship, providing her the opportunity to attend the firm’s annual Women Advisors Leaders Forum, which took place Oct. 2 to 4 in Miami.

The invitation-only event gathers more than 100 of the most successful women advisors affiliated with LPL, a leading partner to independent financial advisors, to share ideas, discuss growth opportunities, celebrate achievements and nurture a community of women advisors.

“It was an honor to attend this conference to learn and hear from successful women in our industry,” VanArsdale said. “As a woman in a male-dominated field, it’s refreshing to be among women who have paved a path for greater diversity in our field and who want to provide more access to financial advice. I left inspired by these women and eager to build deeper relationships with the clients we serve.”

The scholarship was designed to inspire and equip LPL women to greater success. Scholarship qualifications were at least three years of experience in the industry, at least one as an LPL advisor, and a demonstrated track record of growth. Additionally, each scholarship recipient was identified as a potential successor to take over a practice.

Bethany Bryant, LPL senior vice president, National Sales and Consulting, said the scholarship is intended to fast-track attendees’ leadership development. She added, “As we work to grow and support an inclusive and diverse advisor community, we’re highly committed to empowering our next generation of successful women advisors in their work to support America’s investors. These women are potential successors to take over a practice, and our goal is to help put them in a position to do that successfully by investing in their growth and development.”

VanArsdale is an LPL Financial advisor. LPL Financial is a leader in the retail financial advice market and the nation’s largest independent broker-dealer*, providing resources, tools and technology that support advisors in their work to help enrich their clients’ financial lives.

About LPL Financial

LPL Financial is a leader in the retail financial advice market and the nation’s largest independent broker-dealer*. We serve independent financial advisors and financial institutions, providing them with the technology, research, clearing and compliance services, and practice management programs they need to create and grow thriving practices. LPL enables them to provide objective guidance to millions of American families seeking wealth management, retirement planning, financial planning and asset management solutions. LPL.com

*Based on total revenues, Financial Planning magazine June 1996-2019

Policy Uncertainty Intensifies

Investors are facing a host of unresolved international and domestic issues, in addition to an upcoming U.S. presidential election, all of which are contributing to an overall sense of uncertainty. Luckily, financial markets have been adept at powering through “walls of worry” in this bull market, which is now in its 10th year.

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