As the year comes to a close and investors reflect on 2017, one word that frequently heard around Wall Street water coolers is "record."
If it seems like there's been some sort of stock market record every day, you aren't far off. 2017 saw milestones tumble; the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) crossed 20,000 for the first time, and has its sights set on 25,000; the Nasdaq briefly topped 7,000; and the S&P 500 is on track to record its 10th monthly gains on the year. However, all records weren't so illustrious.
Wall Street analysts recorded their biggest miss since 2013, and their fifth worse since the turn of the century. According to data from Bespoke, analysts were off by 14.3 percent in their 2017 estimates for the S&P 500, the worst miss since the S&P 500 rose 30 percent in 2013.
Across the board, equity markets outperformed – a lot. Even as the Fed increased interest rates three times to 1.25 to 1.5 percent, the 10-year Treasury is a measly 5 basis points higher from where it began the year. And even after a late rally, oil prices are higher by just $3 a barrel.
We will leave cryptocurrency for another day.
Why Did They Got It Wrong?
The election of President Donald Trump bought widespread skepticism to financial markets. The initial reaction was to dump stocks and buy bonds to seek shelter from what was at the time deemed to be a wave of global populism movement. (That moment really was a moment that lasted less than 24 hours.) Chaos aside, Trump's pro-business and deregulation rhetoric picked up steam, and investors warmed to the idea that the biggest benefactor under the new GOP would be corporate America.
Stock Market hits new Record High. Confidence and enthusiasm abound. More great numbers coming out!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 30, 2017
Even as numerous attempts to repeal Obamacare failed, the stock market didn't blink. Investors had pinned their hopes on tax reform, and confidence it would make it over the line never waned. Then on December 20, the House and Senate both passed the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act," the biggest overhaul of the U.S. tax system since the 1980s. The result: 24-hours later the Dow made its 70th record close of 2017, breaking a record set in the mid-1990s.
All told, all three major U.S. indices posted gains of more than 18 percent, led by the Nasdaq that finished 30 percent higher. It really was a good year to be a U.S. equity holder.
What Lies Ahead
With 2017 behind us, investors eagerly await (journalists more skeptically) Wall Streets' 'best guesses' for 2018.
With just 1 percent to go, the "Dow to 25,000" call seems a formality, but the calls for the S&P 500 to top 3,000 are a little premature. The Senate and House are both up grabs, the net effect of the tax reform is still unknown, and geopolitical tensions remain. But if investors can learn anything from 2017, it's that it will take a lot to derail the stock market.
While we aren't in the business of offering advice, I'll leave you with this, one of the great quotes from famed investor Jesse Livermore: "There is only one side of the market and it is not the bull side or the bear side, but the right side."