Investors could be forgiven if they looked back on 2014 as a year of mixed signals. Concerns about slowing growth in China, a possible recession across Europe and increasing tensions with Russia over their aggressive moves against Ukraine all contributed to market uncertainty. On the other hand, earnings continued to exceed expectations and the rapid decline in energy prices put a tailwind behind the U.S. economy, rewarding investors with the sixth year in a row of positive returns and the longest run since the bull market of the 1990s.
With crude oil down more than 40 percent for 2014 (and continuing to fall in the first weeks of the New Year), we believe this will be the biggest driver of the U.S. markets and economy over the next several quarters. GDP growth in Q3 was revised upward to a healthy five percent annual rate, even before the stimulus of lower gas prices had fully kicked in, revealing continued momentum to the domestic economy as we enter 2015. Continue Reading »