We love hearing from investors -- retail and professional -- because they’re in the trenches, with views that often differ from the group-think that prevails in Washington. We’ve been on the road, as usual, and have the following observations:
GOLDILOCKS RULES: Strongly contrasting with Donald Trump’s dark view of America, a majority of investors we talk with see decent GDP growth, moderate inflation, a solid labor market, tolerable interest rates, good corporate earnings and a stock market that should move erratically higher.
Virtually no one we talk with senses an imminent recession, not with interest rates this low.
WHO’S AFRAID OF HIGHER RATES? A bit of a surprise -- a large percentage of investors, especially on the retail side, would welcome higher interest rates. They agree with industry titan Charles Schwab and others who have complained that low rates punish savers and seniors, who are frustrated in their quest for higher yields. Could higher rates hurt the market and the economy?

They’d have to go a lot higher, investors agree.
INVESTORS TO TRUMP -- COOL IT A LITTLE: We get the same message -- Trump’s policies are exciting and long overdue, but his constant tweeting and polarizing statements are exasperating.

While there’s investor optimism over the economy, there’s anxiety that Trump could say or do something that rattles the markets. “Who knows what’s next from this guy,” one client says; she, like many others, worries that her clients are confused by the frenetic pace in Washington.
REGULATORY REFORM -- TOO LATE: There’s a consensus that regulatory reform in general is a good thing, but we’re struck by attitudes on the Fiduciary Rule. “We’re already in compliance,” everyone says. Whether the rule is killed or modified, our industry is ready for it and has embraced most of its provisions. There’s a somewhat similar view of Dodd-Frank; investors would like to see some changes, especially for small community banks, but the industry has learned to live with the law.
THE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE: No question on this one -- it’s tax reform, by a mile. First and foremost, investors want to know the effective date; many think it will come sometime in 2017, even though we believe it’s more likely to be Jan. 1, 2018. The cap on tax breaks is a huge concern, especially the threat that it might affect mortgage deductions, charitable contributions and even the muni bond exemption.
Everyone is anticipating dramatically lower rates, but no one has a good sense of the details.
UNEASINESS ON GEOPOLITICS: There’s optimism that the stronger dollar will help Europe’s export sector, and there’s no great hand-wringing over Italian banks, French elections, Chinese growth, etc.
Professional investors worry about these threats, as well as trade protectionism and rocky relations with China and Mexico, but that isn’t on the radar screen for retail investors. Virtually all investors worry, however, about a conflict with Iran in which Trump’s generals might overreact.
WHAT ELSE TO WORRY ABOUT? Investors are paid to worry for their clients, so what do they worry about? Other than geopolitics, there’s a worry that Washington has over-promised on Obamacare, tax reform, etc. And there’s a strong consensus, once you leave Washington, that the labor market is tightening rapidly; there’s an acute shortage of skilled labor in the country that eventually could lead to a sharp rise in wage pressure.
EVERYONE WORRIES ABOUT WHAT MIGHT LOOM DOWN THE ROAD: Surging budget deficits, entitlement liabilities, an inflation threat, higher interest rates, etc. But at the same time, there’s a consensus that if Trump doesn’t implode, those long-term concerns can be deferred for another couple of years or perhaps longer, with Goldilocks prevailing.
Our main takeaway: The economy is in far better shape than Washington realices.

Valliere is the Washington-based chief global strategist with Horizon Investments.