The Bernstein/Rosenberg duo at Merrill Lynch was always my favorite due to their often balancing perspectives. While Rosenberg tended to be bearish Bernstein had a generally more optimistic disposition. His 11 themes for 2011 are attached (courtesy of Barry Ritholtz):
Here are our eleven investment themes for 2011. Each of these is either specifically or generally embedded in our investment strategies.1. The US Dollar Continues to Appreciate.Despite all the talk about debasing the dollar, the DXY Index has actually risen about2% so far in 2010. In addition, most investors remain unaware that the dollar troughed in April… 2008! We expect the dollar to continue to appreciate in 2011.2. The US Outperforms Emerging Markets.Although the MSCI Emerging Market Index has outperformed the S&P 500 so far in2010 (15.9% vs. 11.9%), the gap is smaller than most investors expected at the beginning of the year. Perhaps more important, the S&P 500 has outperformed the BRIC countries (11.9% vs. 8.7%), which few people predicted. Emerging markets are now leading the world in negative earnings surprises and remain very expensive.We expect the US to outperform the broader emerging markets universe in 2011.3. Stocks Outperform Bonds.Stocks and bonds have performed quite similarly so far in 2010. The S&P 500’s total return stands at 11.9%, compared with the 10.4% total return of the BofA Merrill Lynch 15+ Year US Treasury Index. We expect stocks to outperform bonds in 2011as the US economy continues to expand and as normal upward pressure on longer-term interest rates becomes more apparent.4. Gold Produces a Negative Return.Gold seems to be in a pure momentum market these days. Momentum markets are exciting, and the media love them, but they have a nasty tendency to fall faster than they rose. The US dollar troughed in 2008, and inflation expectations are not rising in any meaningful way. We think that next year, gold’s momentum market is likely to cede the spotlight to more fundamentally-based assets like stocks.5. Longer-Term Treasury Rates Rise by More Than 150 Basis Points.Our work suggests that the economy is just beginning to enter the mid-phase of the economic cycle. The early-cycle was notably anemic because early-cycle industries benefitted the most from the credit bubble, but investors should remember that thereis a cycle. Our quick review of longer-term interest rates suggests that they typically increase during the mid-phase by between 200 and 300 basis points. Even assuming weaker-than-average growth next year, longer-term rates are likely to rise substantially.6. Energy and Materials Sectors Outperform.If the economy is indeed beginning to enter the mid-phase of the cycle, then energy and materials stocks begin to take leadership positions. We expect both global sectors to outperform in 2011.7. US Consumer Stocks Outperform EM Consumer Stocks.According to one fund-manager survey we recently saw, the emerging market consumer is the most popular investment theme among emerging-market fund managers. With inflation rising and monetary policies tightening in a growing number of emerging markets, it seems unlikely that this theme will meet expectations. We continue to believe that US employment will be stronger than most investors expect next year, which could produce positive surprises for US consumer stocks.8. Small-Caps Continue to Dominate Large-Caps Around the World.The MSCI AC World Small Cap Index has risen 21.7% so far in 2010, which is more than double the MSCI ACWI’s +10.2%. And yet, investors have generally not warmed up to smaller companies. By our calculations, US smaller companies have been outperforming China for nearly three years, have twice the 2011 projected earnings growth of China, and have half the valuation.9. Muni Bonds Outperform EM Non-Dollar Debt.We find it curious that investors are so enamored of local-currency-denominated emerging-market debt, since this sector of the fixed-income markets has historically been the riskiest. At the other extreme, investors widely believe that US municipal bonds are extremely risky, when they have historically been a far more conservative investment. Investors clearly believe that “it will be different this time.” We are not so sure.10. Japan Outperforms China.This is another performance comparison that runs counter to investors’ expectations. Japan has outperformed China by more than 800 basis points so far in 2010. With expectations being so high for China and so low for Japan, we expect Japan’s outperformance versus China to continue.11. The Euro Survives. Europe Recovers.We expect the Euro to remain intact, although talks about the “second reserve currency” now seem long behind us.
Mr. Roche is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Discipline Funds.Discipline Funds is a low fee financial advisory firm with a focus on helping people be more disciplined with their finances.
He is also the author of Pragmatic Capitalism: What Every Investor Needs to Understand About Money and Finance, Understanding the Modern Monetary System and Understanding Modern Portfolio Construction.