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Monthly Investment Outlook - 2021 Outlook

Wells Fargo Investment Institute - December 2020

Presenter: Paul Christopher, CFA, Head of Global Market Strategy, Wells Fargo Investment Institute


Title graphic: 2021 Outlook

2020 had many difficult and unpredictable twists and turns. A widespread global health pandemic, polarized politics, social unrest, unprecedented weather events, and the first economic recession and equity bear market in over a decade — all these challenged investors’ fortitude and left them feeling a little exhausted at year’s end.

Although these pressures may continue to have long-term implications, we see potential investment opportunities in the months ahead, as economic and health care conditions gradually improve, and the recovery gains momentum.

Our 2021 Outlook identifies where we believe investment opportunities may arise.

We anticipate moderate, but uneven global growth in 2021. As the U.S. overcomes its pandemic threat it will remain on the leading edge of the recovery, along with China.

Europe’s economy should gain momentum after a winter surge in COVID infections. And among the emerging economies, China should lead the way, while some others may enjoy strong rebounds. But we think the Latin American economies will lag.

Even with the U.S. on the leading edge of the recovery, we expect further dollar declines, mainly against the euro, as the Federal Reserve adds more monetary stimulus.

In all, a gradually broadening global economic recovery and a weakening dollar should support global asset markets over the course of the year.

In terms of Equities, brightening economic conditions should mean an earnings rebound, and send equity prices to record highs.

We favor U.S. over international equities and the recommended move to quality that we talked about in 2020, carries over to 2021. Additionally, we see some potential opportunities in some traditional cyclical sectors—especially those with higher quality characteristics.

As some uncertainties ease in 2021, we expect moderately higher interest rates, but the economy’s slow pace should prevent a return to historical rate levels.

These historically low rates should add to high demand for yield. We prefer credit and would use active managers in acquiring lower-quality investments. We also favor tax-advantaged municipal bonds, including high-yield municipals.

It’s a mixed bag with real assets. We believe commodities may see a bounce as they experience a rebound in demand.

But, Real Estate Investment Trusts, or REITs, should face headwinds in the coming year as they cope with post-pandemic realities.

And finally, for alternative investments, we believe investors should gravitate toward hedge fund and private capital portfolios that are more focused on themes arising out of the COVID-19 crisis. Often sectors and industries facing the biggest challenges can support the best long-term investment opportunities.

When we think about portfolios, we believe it’s better to be proactive not reactive. So, we favor

  • Holding enough cash for short-term buying and selling, but not more
  • Selectively increasing risk as the economy improves
  • And diversifying income streams

For more ideas on how to be proactive in 2021, please download our Wells Fargo Investment Institute special report — 2021 Outlook: Forging a Path Forward.