Wien Forecasts Gold Above $1,600, Grains Surge in `Ten Surprises' for 2011
Blackstone Group LP’s Byron Wien, who called the bottom for U.S. stocks in 2010 while failing to predict the size of the ensuing rally, said economic growth and 10-year Treasury yields will approach 5 percent this year and gold will surge above $1,600 an ounce.
The price of corn will surpass $8 a bushel, wheat will top $10 and soybeans will exceed $16, while housing starts climb past 600,000, Wien, chairman of Blackstone’s advisory services unit, said in his annual “Ten Surprises” list published since 1986. He reiterated a forecast that the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index will advance above 1,500 and also said the price of oil will climb to $115 a barrel.
“The continuation of the Bush tax cuts coupled with the extension of unemployment benefits has put all working Americans in a better mood,” Wien wrote, according to a statement today on Business Wire. “Real gross domestic product rises close to 5 percent in 2011 driven by improved trade and capital spending in addition to stronger retail sales. Unemployment drops below 9 percent.”
Wien said in June that rising pessimism in options markets signaled it was time to buy stocks. His forecasts at the beginning of last year were less prescient. The former senior strategist for Morgan Stanley said yields on 10-year Treasury notes would top 5 percent, Democrats would lose 20 seats in Congress and that equities would finish 2010 unchanged.
The Democrats lost 63 House seats and six in the Senate, the Fed didn’t raise rates and the benchmark U.S. equity index finished 2010 at 1,257.64, a 13 percent advance. Yields on 10- year Treasuries peaked at 3.99 percent on April 5.
The 10-year Treasury yield rose to 3.33 percent at 4:25 p.m. in New York. Corn futures for March delivery declined 1.4 percent to $6.205 a bushel, wheat futures for March delivery increased to $8.055 a bushel, while soybeans futures for March delivery fell 1.7 percent to $13.79 a bushel. The S&P 500 gained 1.1 percent to 1,271.87 while crude oil advanced 0.2 percent to $91.55 a barrel.
Commodity prices beat stocks, bonds and the dollar last year as China, the biggest user of everything from cotton to copper to soybeans, led the recovery from the first global recession since World War II. At the same time, crops were ruined by Russia’s worst drought in at least a half century, flooding in Canada and parched fields in Kazakhstan, Europe and South America.
The Thomson Reuters/Jefferies CRB index of 19 raw materials gained 17 percent in 2010. Global bonds returned 4.88 percent, based on Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Global Broad Market Index. The U.S. Dollar Index, a gauge against six counterparts, added 1.5 percent. The CRB outpaced the other measures for the first time since 2007.
In 2009, Wien, who was then chief investment strategist for the Pequot Capital Management Inc. hedge fund, correctly predicted rallies in equities, gold and oil. From 2005 to 2009, he worked at Pequot, which closed in 2009 amid an insider trading probe by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
U.S. stocks fell 16 percent between April 23 and July 2 amid concern that the European debt crisis and China’s efforts to cool its economy would slow the global recovery. Wien predicted the “weaker” countries in Europe will be provided additional aid by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. The two groups approved rescue packages for Ireland and Greece in 2010.
‘Less of a Concern’
“The European financial crisis becomes less of a concern,” Wien said. “The policies put in place prove psychologically satisfying to the financial markets but harmful in the longer term because they are palliative and do not represent solutions.”
While Europe’s debt crisis will abate and Japan will avoid falling back into recession, the developed market of choice for global investors will be the U.S., as rising interest rates and a strong economy allow the dollar to strengthen versus the euro and the yen, according to Wien.
Wien forecast China will manage the value of the yuan “aggressively” to keep the growth of the economy below 10 percent. He also predicted a major state will fail to pay interest on a municipal bond because of a lack of funds, President Barack Obama will accelerate the withdrawal of most military personnel in Afghanistan to the end of 2011 and Sarah Palin will seek the Republican nomination for the U.S. presidency.
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