Happy New Year, Wall Street — pop that Champagne cork because 2018 could be another great year for massive wealth creation.
With rising 401(k)s expected to push average balances back into solid six figures — and US equity prices forecast to surge as much as 15 percent — more Americans are over the moon about the coming 12 months than there were in the previous year.
The number of Americans who say they’ll be better off financially in 2018 has climbed to 82.5 percent, up from 72 percent who were bullish over 2017, according to a survey by LendEDU, an online financial marketplace.
“Americans are much more enthusiastic about their finances heading into 2018,” Mike Brown, a research analyst at LendEDU, told The Post. “Astronomical market growth is once again the catalyst for this excitement,” he added, “and one can also (credit) the tax cuts that will hopefully create more jobs, which will lead to more money in the pockets of Americans to pay down debt.”
Those GOP tax cuts for corporations and individuals — a combined $1.5 trillion — are anticipated by analysts to ignite more domestic household consumption, and to lift capital spending by corporations.
That fiscal rocket fuel comes as US gross domestic product grew by more than 3 percent annualized in the two most recent quarters reported.
It’s the first time the economy has had back-to-back growth of 3 percent or more since 2014.
“Synchronized” growth across the globe is also raising US expectations. “I’m optimistic for 2018 based on a supportive economic backdrop and no geopolitical surprises,” said Michael Mondiello, a New York-based financial adviser. “Recession fears have eased, and consumer confidence is up thanks to low US unemployment and a pro-business government.”
Even with a slight dip in December, consumer confidence among Americans in 2017 was the highest in 17 years. “Despite the decline in confidence, consumers’ expectations remain at historically strong levels, suggesting economic growth will continue well into 2018,” according to Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board.
More Americans also expect to come out ahead financially next year, according to the LendEDU polling.
“This just ties into the growing confidence of the common investor,” said Brown, noting also how S&P 500 returns have historically witnessed major growth during the first year of first-term presidencies, including FDR’s 30.5 percent; JFK’s 27 percent; Bush Sr.’s 22.2 percent; and Clinton’s 10.8 percent. Trump is closing the year with a stock market bump of 20 percent. “Whether or not the first-year, first-term spurt is merely a mirage for Trump will be left up to time,” Brown added.
There are few clouds on the horizon for other analysts. Mondiello said the market may rise from 5 percent to 10 percent next year. Canaccord Genuity recently had the S&P 500 soaring by nearly 16 percent in 2018, JPMorgan and Credit Suisse are forecasting a 11.9 percent rise and Goldman Sachs sees a 6.3 percent increase.
Either way, it spells good news for investors.
After taking a brutal beating in the wake of the last financial crisis, retirement savings have sharply rebounded. The average 401(k) balance was $97,700, according to recent Fidelity data, almost $25,000 more than five years earlier.
A rising stock market in 2018 could easily see those balances cross the psychologically important six-figure threshold, analysts say.
“The market is experiencing rapid growth, and now is the time to put extra money in that 401(k),” Brown said. “Perhaps Americans are benefiting so much from the market growth that they are ready to make large purchases, indicating a sort of trickle-down effect.”
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