July 18, 2024


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Brian Sullivan: 5 predictions for 2021

Airlines have increased visible cleaning standards on flights in a bid to reassure people who are nervous to fly during the pandemic.

Andrew Matthews | PA Images | Getty Images

From the next major story in the Covid and health care crisis, to airline fares, Vegas and your money, here are my top 5 predictions for 2021.

A reminder you probably don’t need, but I’ll give it anyway: these predictions are for informational and conversation purposes only and should not be viewed as investment advice of any kind.  Leave that to the pros.  Have fun and tell me where I’m wrong.  Twitter @SullyCNBC  Facebook: Facebook.com/briansullivancnbc 


Prediction 1 — The “Roaring 22s” Begin In The 2nd Half Of The Year (Vegas Sold Out By September)

The world will emerge from our collective Covid crisis slowly at first, but once it is clear a majority of the most vulnerable are protected (April?), expect to see the beginning of a boom in consumption and excess like anything we’ve seen in 100 years. It will be driven by the huge savings being built up by professionals able to work from home. Though millions of Americans are currently struggling economically, the hard reality is that millions of households are spending more than ever before, largely driven by lockdown savings.  No travel. Little to no dining out. No gym memberships. Much of those savings have been going into big-ticket items such as cars and home improvement projects, but pandemic history suggests experiences will trump stuff, and that money will shift to getting out. What I’ve only half-jokingly called the “GOAT” trade on CNBC (get out and travel). Every hotel room in Vegas will be sold out over a weekend by September. ETFs to watch include the Invesco Dynamic Leisure and Entertainment ETF (PEJ), ETFMG Travel Tech ETF (AWAY) & the VanEck Vectors Gaming ETF (BJK).   

Prediction 2 — Popular Air Fares Will More Than Double By July 4th

As of this writing, a nonstop fare on United Airlines from Newark, N.J., to Los Angeles in April is $290, with business class running $2,300. Good luck getting those fares in a few months. Although United has recently said it doesn’t see a clear indication demand will pop, I think it will. More than a million people per day are already flying again on some days, even as Covid cases explode. There is a ‘lockdown fatigue’ that we can see ending before our eyes. Americans want to fly. Airlines, still shell shocked from 2020, will be slow to add capacity back to the market. It will also take time to get them out of desert storage and ready to fly again. Higher demand for fewer seats on the most popular routes should mean sky-high ticket prices. The XAL airline ETF has popped since the fall on this expectation, so who knows how much upside is left on the airlines. Be mindful of the stocks, but book your ticket now.

Prediction 3 — Oil Ends Year Above $55

Though the world remains awash in oil and everyone believes crude oil is on it’s way out, it’s too early to write it off entirely.  In the U.S., a flurry of deals and bankruptcies in Texas should help reduce excess production. Globally, the savvy leadership in OPEC of Saudi Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman along with the recent promotion of the Russian energy minister to Deputy Prime Minister should help keep quota cheaters such as Iraq and Nigeria more inline. Though there is some tough talk on fossil fuels by the Democrats, the party leadership also would love to eventually turn Texas blue, and hammering oil would be harmful politically.  Biden also no doubt remembers that for two years coming out of the financial crisis, the only industry adding jobs in America was oil and gas. It nearly single-handedly made all the underlying economic data look better, slowly boosting psychology and optimism.  Investment in renewables will continue — as it should — but next year will be the year of the car, airplane and ocean freighter.  Refiners should also do better on stronger margins.  

Prediction 4 — Commodities Will Outperform Most Stocks (DBC Over SPY)

I would’ve preferred to write this a few weeks ago because it would’ve been a much easier prediction.  The last few weeks have already seen a boom in commodity prices, nearly every ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ commodity seeing prices rise.  Global money supply — led by free-spending central banks worldwide — and near record-low rates will continue to drive consumption (again, see prediction 1) and manufacturing.   Already we are seeing huge volumes of cargo at American ports.  The Port of Los Angeles had its busiest month ever in October, during a pandemic. Inflation will run hot on the back of a commodity surge.  A more direct prediction: a basket of commodities like the DBC or DJP ETFs will outperform the S&P500 between Jan. 1 and May 1 of 2021.

Prediction 5 — Best Performing Health-Care Investments Focus On The Next Crisis: Obesity

Lockdowns, lack of sports, and a fast-food boom may fuel an even greater obesity crisis than the one America is already facing. Companies that focus on solutions are likely to see a benefit.  The pandemic and resulting lockdowns are likely to lead to weight gain for many.  If you don’t want to cook or do dishes for the 100th time this month, fast food is often all that’s available in many areas.  We’ve all seen drive-thru lines 30, 40, 50 cars long.  Who can blame us?  It’s cheap.  It’s easy.  It tastes great. Combine increased calories with lack of exercise options and a boom in booze, and it’s a recipe for weight gain.  Obesity is responsible for about 300,000 early deaths per year and costs the U.S. about $350 billion every year.  Per person health-care costs are also soaring.  36% of Americans are obese.  This epidemic was an unsustainable trend before Covid, and is likely to only get worse coming out of it.  Companies who deal with weight loss or weight management, diabetes or other similar medical issues will sadly see a boom.  Watch names like DexCom (DXCM)Tandem Diabetes Care (TNDM)Novo Nordisk (NVO), Abbott Labs (ABT).  For what it’s worth, I hate this prediction.