RBC surveyed 75 big-money investors and found that these are the 3 biggest stock-market trends to watch in 2021

Reuters / Lucas Jackson

  • A new RBC survey of 75 institutional investors reveals three key themes that are on the minds of large fund managers heading into 2021.  
  • Overall, the survey revealed that stock-market optimism is high, while a slowdown in the vaccine rollout is a risk that investors are monitoring.
  • Investors also anticipate new sectors of the market, particularly cyclical stocks, to outperform. 
  • 60% of survey respondents said they are “very bullish,” or “bullish” on the outlook for stocks in 2021.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A new survey from RBC Capital Markets measured what’s on the minds of 75 institutional investors as the new year approaches. Detailed below are the three biggest stock-market trends they’re watching in 2021:

(1) Strong optimism around stock-market and economic outlooks

60% of survey respondents said they are “very bullish” or “bullish” on the outlook for the stock market over the next year, while just 9% of inventors said they are “bearish” or “very bearish.” 

Investors also expect 2021 earnings for the S&P 500 to come in at $168 per share, higher than pre-pandemic levels of $165. This is a more positive outlook than RBC’s prior survey. Last quarter, most inventors believed that 2021 EPS would remain below pre-pandemic levels.

(2) Vaccine rollout and politics are key downside risks to monitor

The coronavirus vaccine was the number-one issue keeping investors up at night, closely followed by monetary policy and excessive optimism on the recovery.

On the optimistic side, 80% of investors believe that a majority of Americans will be vaccinated by the end of next year. However, expectations for when business and daily life will return “back to normal” have been extended further.

While in the previous survey the most popular response for when life would return to normal was the third quarter of 2021, now the most popular response is 2022. 

Read more: Brooke de Boutray has beaten 99% of her peers over the last 5 years and runs a fund that is up 148% in 2020. She shared with us 4 stocks she’s most bullish on heading into 2021.

88% of investors still believe Republicans will retain control of the Senate following the Georgia runoff elections, with 56% saying this outcome is bullish or very bullish for stocks. Policy issues that investors are most concerned about include corporate taxes and big tech regulation.

Meanwhile, investors are optimistic about infrastructure, climate, trade and consumer/small business initiatives that will grow under the new administration.

59% of survey respondents said that US equity market valuations are “problematic,” and only a very few said they are “attractive.” According to RBC, this suggests that any threat to the economic and earnings recovery story-like a complications with the vaccine- could spark profit-taking. 

(3) Cyclical sectors will outperform

New parts of the market are expected to take leadership in 2021. Small caps, cyclicals, value, and emerging markets were the top picks for areas expected to outperform. Meanwhile, investors are looking to sell 2020 at-home darlings and stocks within RBC’s “TIMT” category: technology, internet, media, and telecommunications.

Read more: Brian Barish’s mutual fund crushed the market for 8 straight years and is in the top 2% after reinventing value investing for the digital age. Here’s how he pulled it off.

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