The Independent Market Observer

Taking the Long View: Where Will the Economy and Markets Be in 2028?

Posted by Brad McMillan, CFA®, CFP®

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This entry was posted on Dec 18, 2023 2:02:52 PM

and tagged Commentary

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man peering through binocularsWhen we put together economic and market outlooks, we typically focus on the near term—the next month, the next quarter, or the next year. As the great philosopher Yogi Berra noted, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” So, we tend to stay close to the present, where we know more and can at least set some reasonable expectations.

Strangely enough, although our predictive abilities tend to fade over the medium term (as short-term events change outcomes), longer-term trends are more predictable. Given that, as we move into the five-year or so range, we can make some fairly educated guesses about what will happen. With that in mind, let's look past the next year into where the economy and markets could be around 2028.

A Growing Economy

Economically, we should be growing. We can reasonably expect a recession sometime in the next year or two. But after that? Growth will resume—as it always does.

Job growth should be strong over that time as a whole, keeping the labor market tight and driving more investment by businesses. On top of the demographic trends, businesses will keep moving production back to the U.S., driven by affordable natural gas, the rule of law, and proximity to a major consumer market. Between job growth, political stability relative to the rest of the world, and growing de-globalization, the U.S. will be a star in the global economy.

New Highs for Markets

And markets should respond. Companies are projected to continue to grow earnings over the next several quarters, indicating that conditions are good right now. Further, as noted earlier, while we may get a recession in the next year or two, we should be back to growth by 2028.

We may see even more improvement, driven by the deployment of AI tools, which are just getting started. There are already signs productivity may be accelerating. We should see markets continuing to reach multiple new highs over the next five years on both greater efficiency and higher earnings.

Risks Remain

When we look at the risks, this positive scenario may seem unlikely. Domestic politics and geopolitics are both things to watch. A recession is likely in the next couple of years, and China is currently facing a historic slowdown. Beyond the political and economic risks, there are two wars underway, as well as concerns around China and Taiwan. Lots can go wrong between now and then.

But that is always the case. Five years from now, we will be through the next election and close to the one after that. Yes, we will have new political challenges, but those of today will be resolved. For geopolitics, the confrontations will continue, but the war in Ukraine will likely be resolved and China will very likely be relatively less powerful against the U.S. While we will likely see a recession during that time, we may also see growth after—and have a larger, healthier economy then than we do now.

Five years ago, in 2018, we had lots to worry about, including a major crisis on the horizon—the pandemic—that blindsided everyone. Five years later, despite everything, the economy is healthy and expanding. Markets are up, yet again, for the year. Lots went wrong, and shorter time periods were very difficult. But over time, we continued to grow.

Opportunities Ahead

Which is where we find ourselves today. Lots can go wrong. Lots will go wrong. And we may well go through some very difficult periods over the next five years. But over the longer term, things keep getting better. Here in the U.S., there is no reason that outlook will change in our lifetimes. Short term, we do and always will have challenges. Longer term, those challenges are outweighed by the opportunities.

Of course, while it’s interesting to think through where we will be five years from now, an annual outlook also has great value. Learn where our team thinks the economy and markets will go in the year ahead by clicking on the 2024 Outlook in the sidebar to your right.

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