Benchmar Brief – January 10, 2015

Dear Friends and Valued Clients,

Looking ahead to 2015, we see a year that will be marked by transitions. Likely changes in monetary policy around the world, the return of volatility and the recent shift in the political balance of Congress could mean 2015 is a year that will have the global economy, markets and central banks all on the move.

LPL Financial Research has identified significant elements that will be in transit in 2015, which include:

  • The U.S. economy continues its transition from the slow gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 2011-2013 to more sustained, broad based growth. Ongoing progress in the labor market, an uptick in wage growth and continued improvement in consumer and business spending have propelled an uptrend in U.S. economic output. We expect that inflation – which has historically accelerated as the economy moves into the second half of the business cycle – is poised to continue proceeding higher but only modestly so.
  • Central banks around the world will also be on the move in 2015. In the United States, the economy is likely to continue to travel toward a point where the Federal Reserve (Fed) will begin raising rates, albeit gradually, for the first time in nine years. The Eurozone and Japan – the world’s second and fourth largest economies, respectively – could benefit, as central banks in those regions embark on more aggressive policy actions aimed at restarting and reaccelerating theor long-dormant economies.
  • Washington shifts from a relatively quiet 2014 to a bigger role in 2015. The Republican takeover in the Senate and approaching debt ceiling limit might provide the opportunity for some movement out of the gridlock that has plagued Washington in recent years.

Against this backdrop, our research forecasts the following:

  • The U.S. economy is expected to expand at a rate of 3% or slightly higher in 2015. This forecast matches the average growth rate over the past 50 years and is based on contributions from consumer spending, business capital spending, and housing, which are poised to advance at historically average or better growth rates in 2015.
  • Tempered by increasing levels of volatility, stocks may be poised to advance 5-9%. Our research expects that continued economic growth, benign global monetary policy and a more favorable policy climate from Washington indicate that the powerful, nearly six year old bull market should continue. This forecast is in-line with the average stock market growth of 7-9% since WWII. Supported by improved global economic growth and stable profit margins in 2015, expected earnings per share growth for S&P 500 companies is 5-10%.
  • Expect flat bond market returns. With sustained improvement in economic growth, slowly rising inflation and the approach of the Fed’s first interest rate hike, bond prices are likely to decline in 2015. We believe high-yield bonds and bank loans with their attractive yields can help investors manage this challenging bond market.

“Transition”, as is described in this publication, is just another word for change. The forthcoming change in the economic and market landscape in 2015 offers great opportunities, but also major challenges, likely in the form of increased volatility. However, as we forecast relatively strong economic growth unfolding over the horizon, the bigger threat to most investment portfolios will be the pull of our emotions. It is human nature to weigh market struggles substantially more that the strong market returns between them. As investors, keeping our emotions in check when confronting increased volatility could be the key to potential success in 2015. With an investment strategy in hand and a destination in mind, we believe 2015 is poised to be a potentially favorable, though perhaps volatile, year for investors.

As always, we encourage you to contact us with any questions or concerns.

Best regards,

Benchmark Wealth Management

Securities and Advisory Services offered through LPL Financial, a Registered Investment Advisor,  member FINRA / SIPC.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual security. To determine which investment(s) may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. Indexes are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly.

Economic forecasts set forth may not develop as predicted.

High-yield bonds are subject to higher interest rates, credit, and liquidity risks than those graded BBB and above. They generally should be part of a iversified portfolio for sophisticated investors.

Bonds are subject to market and interest rate risk if sold prior to maturity. Bond values will decline as interest rates rise and bonds are subject to vailability and change in price.

Stock investing involves risk including loss of principal.

This research material has been prepared by LPL Financial.

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