Stocks that Ms. Moore at BlackRock thinks would do comparatively well against such a backdrop are of companies that are financially strong and able to grow, even when economic growth is modest at best. Health care is her top sector because it has those defensive qualities, as well as pockets of innovation, such as in medical technology, that support high profit margins.
She said she is “not throwing in the towel on tech” in general, despite plunging share prices in big names like Apple and Facebook, and she said she particularly likes Asian tech companies. Ms. Moore also is “modestly encouraged” about emerging markets in Latin America and Asia, most notably Brazil and India.
Brian Singer, head of dynamic allocation strategies at William Blair & Company, has been investing “with a greater emphasis on risk management,” he said. He finds American stocks “fundamentally less attractive” than others, such as emerging markets, including the two that Ms. Moore mentioned.
Among mature economies, Mr. Singer likes Britain, although he would rather wait until the question of its departure from the European Union, Brexit, is settled before stepping in, and Spain. Markets he is shunning, aside from the United States, are Japan, Canada, Mexico and South Africa. As for bonds, he is avoiding the high-yield market, and he talked up the virtues of another asset class that is often overlooked.
“In this environment, cash will be a relatively good alternative,” he said. “It won’t be a great return generator, but being cautious and holding cash is not a bad idea. It really is a time to remain defensive and have dry powder on hand.”
With so much up in the air, Mr. Yardeni recommends not getting carried away. Investors should be selective about stocks and avoid index-tracking exchange-traded funds.
“This is probably a year for stock pickers,” he said. “It’s not a year for E.T.F.s.”
He would emphasize domestic stocks and limit exposure to emerging markets, which may suffer from soft commodity prices, and to Europe, which is dealing with thorny issues like Brexit and Italy’s recalcitrance in reining in government spending. The aging population bodes ill for long-term growth in Europe, too, Mr. Yardeni said, something that also applies in China.