These 5 surprises could jolt stocks and lead to a surge in volatility next year, BofA says
- After a strong showing for
stocksin 2020, investors are beginning to turn their attention to potential risks that could unfold in 2021.
- According to a Friday note from Bank of America, there are five surprises that could send volatility surging and jolt stocks next year.
- From Chinese debt defaults to zombie firm bailouts, here's are the five potential surprises investors should keep on their radar next year.
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With books nearly closed on 2020, investors and strategists are beginning to turn their attention towards what might be in store for the
Whether next year will be as strong for the stock market as 2020, despite a global pandemic that shuttered businesses and economies around the globe, is anyone's best guess.
Bank of America outlined in a note on Friday their expectations for what could potentially jolt stocks and induce a surge in volatility next year.
Detailed below are 5 potential surprises investors may face in 2021, according to the bank.
1. "China debt defaults force tighter credit, strangling the global recovery."
China is set for a record year of corporate bond defaults in 2020, even by some state-owned enterprises that investors had assumed were implicitly guaranteed by the central government, according to BofA.
And while the overall default rate is low, a 27 percentage point spike in debt to GDP this year, which is the greatest increase since 2009, the likelihood for policy tightening could lead to more defaults.
Policy tightening in China would increase the likelihood of "an A-share market crash, trade tensions, and big pain for the private sector," BofA said.
2. "Bailouts of zombie firms cap productivity and GDP."
While $21 trillion in global stimulus was necessary to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, a cost of that policy is that "bad" firms are bailed out along with the good.
"The big risk is not a dramatic debt crisis but a long-term drag on productivity," BofA explained.
With 16% of OECD companies considered "zombies," meaning that their income doesn't cover their debt payments, even a rebound in the global economy would mean revenues go towards balance sheet repair instead of CAPEX, BofA said.
"The only cure for zombies is more aggregate demand," according to BofA.
3. "Persistent work-from-home caps wage inflation."
"As more firms move workers out of expensive cities and adjust wages accordingly, we wonder if global labor arbitrage is coming for the upper middle class. High overall savings figures are not a reason to expect inflation once you consider the composition: wealthy and work-from-home earners have more savings but don't spend," BofA said.
On the flip side, low-income workers spend but have little savings.
4. "Big bipartisan industrial policy boom."
Investors should expect gridlock and austerity from Washington D.C., but the threat of Chinese competition could jumpstart Congress to get its act together on a bipartisan infrastructure policy, according to BofA.
"The history of every successful modern country is a history of industrial policy, and after decades of neglect, the US desperately needs to rebuild its physical infrastructure, improve its digital infrastructure, and support growth industries," BofA explained, adding that complaints about funding from deficit hawks are "either confused or dishonest."
The risk in this case is no progress on an infrastructure initiative, kicking the can further down the road.
5. "Climate reformers let nuclear energy join the party."
The clean energy trade in 2020, in part boosted by President-elect Joe Biden's win in November, could unravel if policy makers decide that the only way to reach ambitious climate reform goals is by including the use of nuclear energy in their plans, rather than with renewable energy alone (wind, solar etc.).
"Advocates argue that nuclear plants are necessary to meet backup needs when wind and solar are unavailable and are nearly emission-free when running," BofA said.
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