How to Invest for 2017 and Beyond

Editors' pick: Originally published Oct. 12.

Did you hear the one about a Millennial who walks into a bank to ask for a loan for a boat? While it may sound like the start of an off-color joke, it's actually a composition of some major investing themes for the next several years as consumers spend their hard-earned dollars.

As the economy continues to recover, consumer spending is likely to pick up, and the Federal Reserve seems intent on raising the federal funds rate; all of that will drive investing themes for 2017 and beyond.

"Consumer discretionary [represented by fast casual and boating] and financials are some of the bigger themes we like for the next few years," said David Yepez, portfolio manager at Exencial Wealth Advisors.

Consistent with these themes is not only a longer-term time horizon, but a run up in the sector's top performers, making it difficult for some retail investors to get as much exposure to the trends as they want. That's where ETFs come in, which not only provide broad diversification and lower volatility, but also offer upside in to help profit from the trends over the next several years.

Healthy living

Millennials -- which now comprise 75 million Americans, making them the largest demographic in the country -- are more likely to be health conscious with what they eat and do, making fast casual restaurants an attractive space for Yepez.

"Fast casual tends to offer higher quality food with fewer processed ingredients at an average ticket price between $9 and $15," Yepez said. "This theme is likely to continue over the next five to ten years and Millennials really like these types of places."

In the space, Yepez, who helps run $1.6 billion in assets at Exencial, likes Panera Bread (PNRA) . The company, run by CEO Ronald Shaich, has not only made its meals healthier, but has capitalized on technological advancements like Apple Pay, or the company's Rapid Pick-Up initiative, which lets customers order their food online and pick it up when they're ready.

"They've been the leader in fast casual," Yepez noted. "They were the first ones to eliminate antibiotics in meat and provide a calorie count on their menu -- now they're eliminating artificial ingredients."

Though shares have underperformed the S&P 500 year to date and over the past year, they've gained 82.9% over the past five years, keeping in line with the longer-term trend Yepez is looking at.

The Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR Fund ETF (XLY) is the largest consumer discretionary ETF, with $9.1 billion in assets under management and a 0.15% expense ratio.

Wet n' wild

Unlike cars, which are approaching 12 years in the average age, the average age of a boat is nearly 20 years old, Yepez said, indicating a strong replacement cycle may be around the corner.

"It's a boring industry, but I think it's coming around after being so bad," Yepez said, highlighting the weak economic recovery seen so far which has caused consumers to push off replacing or upgrading their boats. "Combine low oil prices and low interest rates and over the next three to five years, there's likely to be an increase in boat purchases."

Brunswick (BC) , which makes everything from fitness and active recreation products to marine engines, is the largest manufacturer of boats globally. Yepez has been recommending shares to clients to help capture the trend.

Baby Boom?

Tying in with the Millennial theme is that as this age group (defined as people born between 1982 and 2004) grow up, get married and start having children, it's likely to benefit banks that have demographic upside.

"In the U.S. people are having children later in life, with the average woman having children after 30," Yepez said. "Over the next five to ten years, there will be a lot of babies born, diapers purchased and houses purchased, which will benefit banks in strong geographic regions. We're recommending Suntrust (STI) , U.S. Bancorp (USB) and PNC Financial (PNC) ."

The Financial Select Sector SPDR Fund ETF ( XLF) is the largest financial-focused ETF, with $12.4 billion in assets under management and a 0.15% expense ratio.

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