There's plenty that could wrong for investors while Donald Trump is president of the U.S.
That's why experts who participated in TheStreet's panel discussion, "How Investors Can Win," held recently in New York, said investors ought to take steps now to protect their portfolios against possible Trump-era risks.
Shorten Bond Duration
What are those risks? Well two such risks, according to Larry Siegel, the Gary P. Brinson director of research at the CFA Institute Research Foundation and one of three panelists, are higher interest rates (and falling bond prices) and higher inflation.
To be sure, that's happening already. The yield on the U.S. 10-year Treasury bond has risen from 1.367% in July to 2.639% this week, and that's a cause for concern among investors who might be holding long-term bonds. Plus, the government announced this week that the annual rate of inflation in the U.S., not including food and gasoline, is now 2.1%. And that's up from 0.7% in 2015 and 0.8% in 2014.
"That trend could keep going," Siegel said during the panel discussion. "So, I would say shorten your bond duration. I would want to hold less in loan bonds and more in short-term assets than I have been, or than I've been recommending that people do."
For his part, Lewis Altfest, the CEO and chief investment officer of Altfest Personal Wealth Management, said investors should be wary of how euphoric the U.S. stock market has been since Trump was elected, and how easily it might tumble if a President Trump doesn't achieve his stated goals.
"It's as if he just shows his face, and the market goes up," said Altfest. "He'd better watch himself, because he's going to have to do things. And then I'm not so sure that the market will be as euphoric."
For example, Altfest said, the Republican Party isn't exactly backing the president-elect right now on all his issues. "They'll back him on some of his issues," he said. "I think we could have a reaction here. Anything significantly negative happening could bring us back some. I'm not talking about the intermediate term. I'm just saying this has happened fairly quickly. And so, we could get a movement back."
Also from this event: Here Is Why the President Doesn't Matter Much for the Markets
According to Altfest, the way to protect against the U.S. stock market falling is by investing abroad. "I wouldn't have all my money in the United States -- not that I'm negative on the United States -- but I think there are more interesting things that are going on abroad."
He also suggested that the only way the U.S. market, which is fairly high relative to history on the latest 12-month basis though not in "bubble territory," could "fundamentally move from here has to be from a boost in GDP."
And that comes, in part, Altfest said, from Trump's programs getting through. That could boost GDP. But in the absence of GDP growth, the market could stumble. "We have to be careful about some things," said Altfest.
Given that, investors need to diversify their portfolios, they need to invest in international markets, in developing markets. "Don't put all your money on the U.S.," said Altfest. "The U.S. is not cheap right now. It's not in bubble territory. But it needs to grow more rapidly than 2% GDP to get corporate profits up, to get P/E multiples down or cash flow -- multiple increasing cash flow."
Siegel also said the U.S. stock market is "between fairly priced and overvalued" based on the cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings (CAPE) ratio, though he cautioned against using the CAPE going back to 1881 given the accounting changes that took place in the early 1990s.
Avoid (Some) Financials
A President Trump might dismantle Dodd-Frank regulation. And if lawmakers remove some of the more onerous provisions of the law, investors might want to avoid financials -- or least some financials.
"So, if you believe that Dodd-Frank is going to go -- someone's going to blink it away -- then maybe banks have to have less capital in reserve, and that gives them more room to leverage up and take more risk and earn more profits and ultimately fall on their face again," said Barry Ritholtz, founder and chief investment officer of Ritholtz Wealth Management and another panelist.
"But that's the cycle we've watched for 20 years. The amazing thing about finance people is how unwilling they are to learn from history. So, it's not a surprise -- and I'm not talking about short-term in terms of months or quarters, but looking at it a year or two. Hey, wait: If I could lower my capital reserve requirements 2% or 3%, I'm that much more profitable, and think about what my bonus is. You do that with a few CEOs, and a decade or two goes by, you're at that point assuming a lot more risk, and the investor may not know if they're being compensated for that risk."
The Risk of Tweetstorms
The panelists also discussed the notion that a President-elect Trump or a President Trump tweeting praise or criticism of publicly traded companies, as Trump did of Boeing (BA) - Get Report prior the panel discussion, is a risk for investors as well.
"Is this a risk?" asked Ritholtz. "Do we now face a systemic risk that the president is going to do something weird? And I am concerned about that. Make systemic risk great again. That's the key."
But how investors protect themselves against such risk is another story. "I don't think it's possible," Ritholtz said.
For his part, Altfest reiterated that the only way investors can protect against Trump's tweetstorms is to diversify their portfolio, to invest in developing and international markets, including China. "Don't put all your money on the U.S.," he said.
Ritholtz, however, offered a slightly different risk-management technique: "The most actionable thing I can tell people is control your own behavior, and you're way ahead of most people."
More:See the full special report from our live panel discussion, "How Investors Can Win."