Know More About Economic Crystal Ball

Expect the unexpected” might as well have been the economic mantra for 2014.

It was the year of a record-setting stock market rally, plummeting oil prices, increasing employer confidence and a strengthening U.S. economy that outpaced analysts’ expectations.

While these factors are fueling investor optimism going into the New Year, can we expect more of the same—or will the economy throw us some curveballs?

While we can’t throw out any 2015 stock market predictions, we can make some educated guesses on what lies ahead on the financial landscape by picking the brains of some of the country’s top economists.

So we asked three well-known market watchers—Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist for The Economic Outlook Group; Francisco Torralba, an economist at Morningstar; and Steve Cochrane, an economist and managing director at Moody’s Analytics—to weigh in on the top trends they believe could impact portfolios in the coming year.

Trend #1: The bull market isn’t over—but it may be weaker.

2014 was the third straight year the S&P 500 scored double-digit gains, ending the year up 11.4%. The tech-heavy Nasdaq was up 13.4%. And although the Dow Jones Industrial Average slid in December, it still recorded its sixth straight year of gains.

Despite a volatile January start, all three analysts believe that stocks will continue their solid gains as the U.S. economy continues to strengthen.

“Rarely have we seen such an alignment of positive economic factors in the U.S.—low inflation, low interest rates, lowering gas prices, rising employment and improving confidence by business leaders,” Baumohl says.

But don’t expect a rally as robust as last year’s. Single-digit percentages are more likely, he adds, predicting something close to 7% for the S&P and 9% for the Nasdaq by the end of the year.

The Federal Reserve, however, will have a big impact on how the markets fare. If the Fed raises rates in a sudden spike, Cochrane says, the economy could experience some sudden turmoil.

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