Raising GDP and Stock Market Forecasts

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The resilience of the US economy continues to exceed our expectations. With encouraging progress toward ending the pandemic, and massive fiscal stimulus in place—and more likely coming soon, our prior economic growth forecasts may prove overly conservative. In addition, we believe a strong fourth quarter earnings season supports an increase in our earnings forecasts for 2021 and, in turn, our fair value S&P 500 target.

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Small Caps Still Solid

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Small caps have had an incredible run since the Russell 2000 Index bottomed on March 18, 2020, returning 119% compared to the S&P 500 Index’s 60% return over the period. Will small cap outperformance continue in 2021? The early stages of this business cycle may help determine the direction for small caps as well as earnings per share, stock valuations, and technical trends.

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Markets Shrug Off Debt Levels

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The level of US debt, already elevated before COVID-19 hit, skyrocketed as Congress put into place much needed fiscal stimulus in response to the pandemic, and it may jump again as the Biden administration targets its stimulus goals. Markets have seemed unfazed by fiscal stimulus measures, and they’ll likely stay that way at least through 2021, but there will likely be economic consequences in the long term.

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Market Policy Projections for 2021

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As a result of the Senate runoffs in Georgia, Democrats are poised to take control of the US Senate, which would give them a majority in both houses of Congress. This will shift the policy outlook moderately to the left, but majorities are still razor-thin, giving moderates heavy influence. We also envision a potential move toward increased bipartisanship, which may help bring more clarity to policy in 2021.

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