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Investors are keeping their eyes on The Federal Reserve, the trade war and Washington, D.C. as they attempt to lay out a road map for the year. As part of our Q1 2019 Bankrate Market Mavens Survey of leading financial market analysts, we asked: What forces will be the biggest drivers for financial markets, including equities and fixed income, over the next year?

Here’s what top financial professionals answered. (Responses may have been edited for grammar and clarity.)

Robert A. Brusca, chief economist at Fact and Opinion Economics

“Fed policy, economic growth and geopolitical development will drive markets. Of course, that includes anything that might happen to affect the office of the presidency like the Mueller report.”


Marilyn Cohen, president of Envision Capital Management Inc.

“Interest rates and the Federal Reserve’s quantitative tightening will be the biggest financial market drivers. The cost of capital – i.e., rolling over debt, paying dividends, share repurchases – can be dramatically affected.”


Brett F. Ewing, chief market strategist at First Franklin Financial Services

“The No. 1 force will be the Federal Reserve policy. The No. 2 force will be stability in Europe and China in the second half of 2019.”


Kim Forrest, senior portfolio manager and vice president at Fort Pitt Capital Group

“The markets are questioning the health of the US economy. Investments are going to be bought and sold in the discovery process. Stocks, the growth story, should outperform fixed income. Forward expectations of inflation are telling you that inflation is muted, so too should be interest rate growth.”


Jeffrey A. Hirsch, CEO of Hirsch Holdings Inc. and editor in chief of Stock Trader’s Almanac

“The Fed is the single biggest risk to financial markets. The combination of raising rates and shrinking of its balance sheet at the same time is relatively uncharted territory. A small misstep, either in guidance or actual policy execution could easily send the market tumbling again.”


Curtis Holden, CFA, senior investment officer at Tanglewood Total Wealth

“Politics grabs a lot of headlines, but ultimately equities are driven by earnings. We have a very strong backdrop for earnings, so if the U.S. is able to avoid a full-blown recession, earnings should continue to be strong and equities will recover well.”


Hugh Johnson, chairman and chief investment officer of Hugh Johnson Advisors

“The biggest drivers will be: A. The level of interest rates and the level of earnings. B. U.S fiscal policy. And C. Domestic monetary conditions.”


Audrey Kaplan, head of global equity strategy at Wells Fargo Investment Institute

“‘Bad’ U.S. quarterly returns are often followed by better future returns. The S&P 500 P/E multiples in 2018 experienced their third largest decline in the past 40 years. This decline has created some of the most attractive valuations of the current economic expansion and we remain focused on expected Record-High EPS in 2019 which supports a new S&P 500 high. The market drawdown implies a higher probably of being in a recession which is at odds with the fundamental data and economic analysis.”


David Lafferty, chief market strategist, Natixis Investment Managers

“The biggest driver for markets in 2019 will be the evolution of global growth trends. If the current deceleration is simply a mid-cycle slowdown, markets could rebound powerfully. If the deceleration is a prelude to recession, markets aren’t priced for that. Look out below.”


Tom Lydon, publisher of ETF Trends

“Equities will be the driving force behind investment portfolio returns for 2019. While fixed-income picked up in the last months of 2018 as the stock markets pulled back, bonds ultimately benefited from the risk-off environment and the renewed interest for safety bets. However, after the pullback in equities, riskier assets now look more attractive and could benefit more from a rebound.”


Brian Nick, chief investment strategist for Nuveen

“Markets are pricing in a higher risk of recession than we believe is appropriate. Should economic data come in that continues to point to positive U.S. and global growth, interest rates and stock prices should both increase. That relies on a healthy U.S. consumer and effective policy stimulus coming from China.”


Patrick J. O’Hare, chief market analyst at Briefing.com

“The direction of interest rates will continue to be the most important component.”


Jim Osman, founder and CEO of The Edge Group

“Companies reducing debt after a strong M&A cycle using corporate actions such as spinoffs to help will be a big driver of value in the next few years.”


Bob Phillips, managing principal at Spectrum Management Group

“Resolution of trade issues between China and the U.S. will provide the largest catalyst for prices moving higher. If an agreement isn’t reached it will be a large negative that will likely slow world growth and significantly increase the odds that we head towards a recession”


Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research

“The greatest driver for financial markets will be the cascading impact of global trade on growth in GDP, operating earnings and share prices.”


Wayne Wicker, chief investment officer of Vantagepoint Investment Advisers

“Resolution of tariffs.”