Byron Wien’s Market Insights from Annual Lunch Series

Blackstone strategist Byron Wien shared some takeaways from the annual summer luncheons series he offers to “tap the collective wisdom of financial experts,” according to a recent article in Barron’s.

Wien offers a synopsis of the many topics covered, including the following:

While market valuations are stretched, current interest rates “can support a higher multiple, perhaps as much as 30 times, but few observers want to stick their necks out that far.” And, although the Fed is moving toward a less accommodative policy, other “potential impediments to equity appreciation are not currently negative,” citing declining unemployment, new highs in leading indicators and modest inflation as factors.

The North Korea situation looms large, writes Wien, which has “buffeted” the markets.

On the risk side, “possible serious policy error coming out of the White House” and investor complacency regarding ETFs are mentioned, as well as the narrowing of the market as evidenced by the FAANG stocks’ accounting for such a large percentage of overall performance.

Wien cites other topics that, he writes, “have generally not been given enough consideration,” including “troubled finances of state and local governments in the U.S. as well as the dangers to the federal budget deficit if interest rates were to rise sharply.” He adds that his luncheon guests discussed how the retail and auto industries were “going through major secular changes because of technology.”

In conclusion, he says, “Overall, a vote on market performance between now and year-end showed that 60% believed it would be higher in spite of the caution expressed in the discussion.”