Blackrock’s Bob Doll says there is more to the market’s strong recent performance than the “January Effect,” and says stocks are poised to gain ground in 2012 even if the economy doesn’t post strong growth.
“In part, we believe the upward moves of the last two weeks can be attributed to the fact that many investors (including active fund managers) came into the year underexposed to risk assets following a disappointing 2011, and who are at this point beginning to put their cash to work,” Doll writes in his latest market commentary on Blackrock’s site. “We are cautiously optimistic that good returns for stocks will not require strong economic or earnings growth this year, nor will they require significant upside surprises. In our view, given that expectations and investor sentiment are quite depressed, if the world is able to avoid major accidents and policy mistakes and if existing sources of risk are contained, we should see some decline in volatility levels and a diminishing of investor uncertainty and fear. These trends, in turn, should allow more investors to move back into the markets.”
Doll says that Europe’s debt crisis remains the biggest risk factor in the market, with U.S. fiscal policy and China’s slowing growth also of concern. “We are not suggesting that stocks will move inexorably higher this year and we are quite certain that we have not seen the end of market volatility,” he says. “We do believe, however, that decent earnings prospects, plus dividend yields plus a moderate improvement in valuations should be enough for US stocks to post double-digit returns in 2012.”