The key takeaway from 2011 will be the gap in economic performance between the developed and emerging economies, said Bank of America Merrill Lynch at its 2011 Year Ahead breakfast in New York City Tuesday.

BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research forecasts that emerging markets will make up over three-quarters of global GDP growth.

“The world is still healing from the wounds of the economic crisis, so we believe the U.S. economy will muddle through in 2011 and global economic growth will slow modestly compared to 2010,” said Ethan Harris, head of Developed Markets Economics.

Harris said that 2010 saw “massive headwinds,” including concerns over regulation and deficits and those headwinds will continue into 2011 cancelling out a normal recovery. “Instead of a 6% to 7% recovery, we expect a 3% recovery,” Harris said Tuesday.

Yet the firm remains bullish on risk assets and forecasts that global equities will soar by over 15% and the S&P 500 index will reach 1400, 9% higher than where it is now, said Michael Hartnett, chief Global Equity strategist.

Emerging markets will show a strong rebound, said Alberto Ades, co-head of Global Emerging Markets Fixed Income Strategy and Economics, with domestic demand replacing exports as the driver of growth.

“After the epic market drama of 2008 and 2009, arguably the biggest surprise of 2010 was the normality of asset price returns,” said Hartnett. “Going into 2011, the probability of market tail risks is likely to remain elevated, with the specter of premature fiscal tightening, a double-dip in U.S. housing values, exploding borrowing costs in Europe and potential oil price spikes all looming over our forecasts.”

BofA outlined ten macro calls for 2011:

1) Corporate spending will far outpace consumer spending as unemployment remains high. The firm expects core inflation to stay at 1% over the year.

2) Global economic growth will slow from 2010, with Harris forecasting a slowdown from 4.9% to 4.2%, with emerging market growth at 6.4%.

3) Bond returns will decline to low single digits. Yields should continue to rise slightly in 2011, said Priya Misra, head of U.S. rates strategy.

4) Municipal bonds are the way to go in terms of strong returns in the fixed-income arena in 2011.

5) U.S. high-yield bonds are forecasted to have a 10% return, while emerging market corporate bonds are expected to have around a 7% return.

6) Both U.S. and emerging markets are expected to outperform relative to global equity markets.

7) The third year of a presidential cycle is usually the best for stocks, with average returns of 14%, said Mary Ann Bartels, head of Technical and Market Analysis. Bartels and David Bianco, head of U.S. Equity Strategy, say sectors such as technology and energy will be hot in 2011.

8) Large-cap equities are expected to outperform small-cap equities (except for technology) in 2011.

9) The U.S. dollar is forecast to rise against the euro and the yen.

10) Commodity prices will increase, especially in oil, copper, and coal.





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