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What Lies Ahead: 2021 Economic Projections and the Year in Review

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What Lies Ahead? 2021 Global Economic Projections

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With over 1.4 million deaths worldwide, COVID-19 has impacted nearly every corner of society.

Yet, hope seems suddenly near. Crucial vaccine developments are emerging, with many of the 320 vaccines in advanced trials. Still, questions remain around the timing and effectiveness of the potential vaccine. With this in mind, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects that this year, global real GDP will fall –4.4%, bouncing back 5.2% in 2021.

As we look back on a historic year, this infographic from New York Life Investments traces the notable events of 2020, along with growth forecasts for the year ahead.

2020: Year in Review

From a deadly virus to U.S. elections, how did we get to where we are now?

Since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, $12 trillion in global fiscal response helped stabilize the economy. Despite financial markets facing their sharpest drop in 30 years, the S&P 500 rebounded in record speed—recovering losses in under four months.

 S&P 500 Price Returns Global COVID-19 Cases
January-1%27
February-9%11,948
March-21%87,091
April-11%883,804
May-7%3.23M
June-5%6.15M
July0%10.48M
August7%17.63M
September3%25.57M
October0%34.09M
November11.7%*46.17M

Source: European CDC via Our World in Data
*As of November 27, 2020

In April, oil prices dropped into negative territory for the first time ever. The combination of both a demand shock and supply shock led oil futures to fall to -$37.63. Since then, oil prices recovered modestly, hovering close to $45 in November.

In another historic event, wildfires ravaged through the West Coast of the U.S., burning five million acres across Oregon, California, and Washington. Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases continued to climb. Global reported cases exceeded the 25 million mark by September.

Finally, on November 16, Moderna announced that its COVID-19 vaccine was 94.5% effective, just days after the 2020 president-elect, Joe Biden was announced.

Despite the number of record-breaking incidents over the year, the tech-dominated S&P 500 held steady. Here is how key economic figures have materialized against the backdrop of 2020:

1. Government Debt

Government debt rose 20% relative to GDP in advanced economies, while debt has grown at a slower pace in emerging market and low-income countries.

Gross Debt Position (% of GDP)20192020
Advanced economies105%125%
Emerging market and middle-income economies53%62%
Low-income developing countries43%49%

Source: IMF

2. Inflation

Overall, inflation was lower than pre-pandemic levels, sitting at around 1.5%.

While commodities and medical supplies saw their prices rise, weak global demand for overall goods cancelled out these inflationary effects.

3. Sector Performance

Service sectors were hit among the hardest as social distancing measures were enacted to stave off the pandemic.

In the first half of 2020, accommodation, arts, and entertainment sectors fell close to 15% compared to 2019. Meanwhile, banks were cushioned with cash reserves in the event of unexpected risks, breaking roughly even in year-over-year growth.

While the economy has encountered numerous challenges, the IMF expresses cautious optimism for the year ahead.

2021: Global Growth Outlook

Since the IMF’s June projections, economic growth forecasts have somewhat improved. Primarily, optimism is being driven from Q2 GDP growth that exceeded expectations.

Global Growth ForecastsApril JuneOctober
2020-3.0%-4.9%-4.4%
20215.8%5.4%5.2%

Source: IMF

By contrast, pre-pandemic projections for 2020 and 2021 were 3.3% and 3.4%, respectively.

Over 2020, China enacted several strict measures to contain COVID-19 early in the outbreak, a key factor behind its economic momentum. Meanwhile, India is projected to rebound 8.8%—higher than any other country in 2021, according to IMF-reported countries.

While several factors remain uncertain, what will pave the way for a global recovery?

Analysis of a Successful Global Recovery

Growth projections are improving, but economic success will hinge on these three layers.

 3 Layers for Economic Success 
1The path of COVID-19Public health measures & the race for a vaccine

Impact on domestic economic activity
2Global consumer demandTourism activity

Remittance flows
3Financial market sentiment and capital flowsSupply disruptions

Policy effectiveness

To prevent further unwanted outcomes, it will be essential that policy support is not withdrawn too soon.

The Road to Recovery

With these factors in mind, how could global conditions transform in the months ahead?

Best Case ScenarioWorst Case Scenario
Accelerating global demand

Maintaining liquidity for countries in need

International cooperation

Fair and equal vaccine
implementation across countries
Weakened economic activity

Tightening lending conditions for countries in need

Protectionist measures

Country-level vaccine disparities

In the face of these obstacles, the health of the global economy rests on sufficient consumer demand, capital flows and COVID-19 containment. With news of vaccine developments underway, the outlook is appearing a bit brighter.

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Visualized: Three Investment Opportunities for the Future

Here are three investment opportunities to consider as the U.S. government proposes a record $6 trillion in budget initiatives.

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Investment Opportunities

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Visualized: Three Investment Opportunities for the Future

With proposed government spending initiatives set to reach $6 trillion, the U.S. could be entering a new era of economic potential.

Sweeping measures have been proposed to support the economy—reaching levels of sustained spending not seen since WWII. These include a $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan and a $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

But how will this affect financial markets, and what investment opportunities does this present? As we look ahead, this infographic from New York Life Investments explores three potential areas of growth.

Three Investment Opportunities

Here are key trends that could shape the future—creating new opportunities for investors—as government spending increases:

1. The Strategic Role of Debt

In 2021, corporate debt sits at roughly 50% of U.S. GDP.

Importantly, COVID-19 relief packages helped offset a wave of defaults. Yet at the same time, a record $1.7 trillion in corporate debt was issued by nonfinancial companies in 2020—$600 billion higher than the previous peak. This rise in debt may offer potential investment opportunities.

In a low-interest rate environment, debt is relatively less expensive for companies to hold than during periods of high interest rates. This means they can invest in their business, make acquisitions, and gain greater market share.

Companies with investment-grade debt, which have stronger ratings from credit agencies, will likely be better positioned to make strategic business moves and mitigate the potential of future default.

2. Digital Infrastructure

There are several core components that underpin technology today:

Semiconductor chips: Key components in electronics such as smartphones, computers, refrigerators, and cars. As electronics proliferate, semiconductor companies may provide windows of opportunity. By 2030, electronics are projected to make up 45% of a car’s cost, up from 18% in 2000.

Broadband: Infrastructure required for internet access, including in rural and remote areas. Across OECD countries, broadband subscriptions per 100 people is just 33.3, illustrating a gap in access to high-speed internet. 5G, fiber optic cable, and internet infrastructure companies could offer the essentials that are needed.

Hyperscale cloud providers: Enable vast amounts of data and computing power to operate on cloud-based platforms, often in real time. With average gross margins of 57% and net debt to equity of 4%, cloud computing vendors could be poised for growth as data expands exponentially.

3. Emerging Markets’ Growing Middle Class

In the last two decades, emerging market (EM) income per capita has doubled. As disposable incomes rise, the consumer landscape is shifting towards more sustainable products.

Willingness to Pay a Premium for the Following Attributes% of Respondents
Contains organic/all-natural ingredients41%
Contains environmentally friendly/sustainable materials38%
Offers/does something no other product on the market provides37%
Delivers on social responsibility claims30%

Source: Conference Board Global Consumer Confidence Survey conducted with Nielsen. Data as at June, 2020.

Notably, the plant-based meat market in Asia is projected to grow 15.9% annually by 2026. In fact, global consumer searches for sustainable products have grown 71% since 2016.

Forces of Change

At this critical juncture in spending lies new investment opportunities. While it’s impossible to predict the future, strong underlying trends provide clues for how investors can think about positioning their portfolio.

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The 5 Fastest Growing Industries of the Next Decade

We reveal the five fastest growing industries of the future, within broader sectors such as healthcare and technology. Which industry will be number one?

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Fastest Growing Industries

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The Fastest Growing Industries of the Future

Today, the U.S. economy looks very different than it did hundreds of ago. While railroad stocks dominated in the 19th century, industries within technology and healthcare have grown substantially in recent years. As dynamics continue to shift, what will be the fastest growing industries of the future?

In this infographic from New York Life Investments, we uncover the industries projected to see the fastest growth rates over the next decade.

What Are the Fastest Growing Industries?

The U.S. economy is growing. From 2019 to 2029, total industry output is expected to rise by more than 20%.

Output is the value of final goods and services, as well as intermediary sales that are not typically included in GDP. In this case, output is based on chained 2012 dollars, which is a method of adjusting real dollar amounts for inflation over time using 2012 as a base year.

Below, we count down the fastest growing industries from 2019 to 2029, according to projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

#5: Outpatient Care Centers

This industry is defined as facilities where the patient is not required to stay overnight, such as:

  • Mental health and substance abuse centers
  • Family planning clinics
  • Dialysis clinics
  • Multidisciplinary clinics

As patients demand more convenient and less expensive care, the popularity of outpatient care centers has grown. Advances in medical technology, such as minimally invasive surgeries, also allow for same day release. Here is what projected growth looks like for the industry.

Compound Annual Growth Rate3.2%
2019 Output$122B
2029 Output$168B

However, investors may want to consider that health care leaders say implementing information technology (IT) is their greatest challenge.

#4: Computer System Design & Related Services

Companies that primarily provide IT expertise fall within this industry. Here are some examples:

  • IT consultants
  • Programming services
  • Video design
  • Web page development
    • The growth of e-commerce and digital marketing will likely contribute to the industry’s success. For instance, U.S. e-commerce climbed by 32% in 2020. Buoyed by these trends, computer systems design companies are expected to have a compound annual growth rate exceeding 3%.

      Compound Annual Growth Rate3.2%
      2019 Output$518B
      2029 Output$712B

      On the other hand, investors may want to watch for the high capital costs some IT companies could incur to upgrade outdated platforms.

      #3: Oil & Gas Extraction

      This industry includes companies involved in the preparation of oil & gas, up to the point of shipment from the producing property. Some examples are:

      • Integrated oil & gas companies
      • Drilling contractors
      • Exploration & production companies

      As inflation rises, extraction companies may benefit from higher prices and wider profit margins. The industry is expected to have the third highest growth rate over the next decade.

      Compound Annual Growth Rate3.4%
      2019 Output$474B
      2029 Output$660B

      However, investors may want to consider the growing traction of sustainable investments. While oil demand isn’t projected to peak until 2035, the shift to clean energy may cause long-term challenges for the industry.

      #2: Information Services

      Businesses that supply, search for, or publish information fall within this industry. Some examples are:

      • News syndicates
      • Internet publishing
      • Broadcasting
      • Web search portals

      Consumption of trusted news brands is growing, and paid subscriptions are increasing in richer Western countries. In addition, Google has committed at least $1 billion to license content from publishers for its News Showcase product. Here’s what potential growth looks like for information services companies.

      Compound Annual Growth Rate4.2%
      2019 Output$243B
      2029 Output$365B

      On the other hand, ad revenue is falling in some segments. Investors researching this industry may want to consider platforms that are diversifying their revenue streams.

      #1: Software Publishers

      Topping the list of the fastest growing industries is companies that design, install, and provide post-purchase support for software. Some examples are:

      • Cybersecurity
      • Graphic design
      • Operating systems
      • Customer relationship management

      Amid remote work and e-commerce growth, software enables companies to connect with employees and customers. The industry is projected to have a compound annual growth rate of almost 5% from 2019 to 2029.

      Compound Annual Growth Rate4.8%
      2019 Output$236B
      2029 Output$378B

      At the same time, the industry has relatively low barriers to entry. Investors may want to watch for competitors, which can pop up anytime and threaten existing companies’ market share.

      Industries of the Future

      Investors with a long-term view can consider investments in these high potential areas. Propelled by market trends, the fastest growing industries fall within three broader sectors:

      By looking to the future, investors may be able to capitalize on industries poised for growth.

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