Hindsight can be a wonderful thing, particularly in December, when investors can reflect on the year just past.
To that end, we thought it’d be interesting to share some of the top searched-for finance-related terms in 2018.1 At the very least, it’ll shed some light on the issues that have caught investors’ attention over the past year:
1. Oil prices
If the 1970s oil crisis taught us anything, it’s that the price of oil can have a huge impact on economic growth. It’s also widely used as an economic indicator that can predict the likely trajectory of the global economy. No surprise, then, that the phrase ranks among the most-searched-for finance-related terms.
2. Tax reform/Tax brackets 2018
The terms’ popularity could probably be attributed to five simple words that came into mainstream consciousness in late 2017: (the) Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Investor interest in the legislation is justified—it represented the most sweeping tax reform in years.
In our view, taking an active interest in retirement planning is always a positive. To paraphrase a popular saying, a retirement goal without a plan is just a wish. That said, it’s important to retain a long-term perspective when thinking about 401(k) balances and not be too alarmed by day-to-day market developments. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
4. Retirement calculator
It’s heartening to see that many investors are actively thinking about retirement planning. To be fair, it isn’t always a straightforward process, but we can help—if you’re interested in finding out how you can work towards your retirement goals, head over to John Hancock Retirement Plan Services’ contribution calculator.
Investors spent much of 2017 worrying whether the unusual lack of volatility represented the proverbial calm before the storm. Investors were right: Volatility returned with a vengeance in 2018, first spiking in February, and it’s remained elevated since October.
As the deadline for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union looms ever closer, uncertainty over the entire process looms ever larger. While Brexit’s impact on the global financial markets appears somewhat limited for now, investors are monitoring developments closely. Hopefully, the new year will bring more clarity to the situation.
7. Interest rates
Is the U.S. Federal Reserve (Fed) raising interest rates by too much, too fast? That’s the $64,000 question. No one knows whether the Fed will adopt a more dovish tone next year, but as of November, the U.S. economy remained on track to grow by around 3% this year while inflation hovered around 2%. 2
8. Exchange-traded funds/ETFs
Investor appetite for ETFs remains healthy: U.S.-listed ETFs attracted inflows of nearly $268 billion in the first 11 months of 2018.3 Their low-cost structure continues to appeal to investors, and many are increasingly blending ETFs into their overall investment strategy. It’s perfectly understandable that investors want to know more about ETFs—how they work and how to incorporate them into diversified portfolios.
9. Midterm elections
Investors were understandably curious about how October’s midterm elections could affect the financial markets. As we had noted previously, the stock market typically puts in a strong performance in the year after the midterms. If history is a reliable guide, 2019 could be a big year for U.S. stocks.
10. Trade war
This is the major risk event that could derail global growth—the surprise here is that there weren’t more searches. Media coverage certainly hasn’t let up, and the issue could come under intense focus again as we approach the end of the 90-day U.S./China truce, which expires on March 1, 2019.
For more insight on key market themes in the year ahead, visit our Viewpoints page.
1 John Hancock Investments has identified a list of key finance-related words and tracks the number of times, on average, they have been searched for in Google over a 12-month period. Some months had higher search volume than others. These numbers were identified using a search engine research tool. 2 John Hancock Asset Management, November 2018. 3 FactSet, November 2018.