Wall Street doesn't have much faith in the current Congress. In fact, 80% of the experts surveyed agree that the next few months could be as volatile as last year for the stock market as lawmakers fail to address the fiscal cliff in a timely manner.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Following the stock market's rough run in the aftermath of the debt ceiling drama last summer, Wall Street experts are warning investors to buckle up for another a roller coaster ride.
In fact, 80% of the investment strategists and money managers surveyed by CNNMoney agree that the next several months could be just as volatile for the stock market as last year, or potentially even worse, as lawmakers try to avoid falling off the fiscal cliff at the end of the year.
"In case investors are not sufficiently convinced that policy makers and politicians are up to the task of handling the fiscal cliff in a reasonably effective manner, financial markets are likely to again fall sharply, similar to the plunge around the debt ceiling debacle in 2011," said John Praveen, managing director and chief investment strategist of Prudential International Investments Advisers.
Some say the moves could be even more nauseating this year because the economy is facing bigger headwinds: Europe's unresolved debt crisis, the slowdown in China and the stalling U.S. economic recovery.
One look at CNNMoney's Fear & Greed Index shows that the roller coaster is well underway. Early Thursday, it moved back into fear after briefly stepping into greed just a week ago. In between, it managed to sit in neutral for a few days. But a month earlier, the index was firmly entrenched in extreme fear. That shows just how unnerved investors are about where things are headed. (Check out Fear & Greed)
Trading could be particularly choppy leading up to the November presidential election as investors try to gauge which direction tax policies will move depending on who's elected and which parties control Congress, said Chase Investment Counsel President Peter Tuz.
About 75% of those surveyed agree that a victory for Republican hopeful Mitt Romney, who advocates extending all of the Bush-era tax cuts, is the most favorable outcome for the market. Many are also hoping for the GOP to gain control of both the House and the Senate.
The market will continue to worry about the fiscal cliff, the simultaneous onset of tax increases and spending cuts that will be triggered on Jan. 1, until Congress acts. But some anxiety could be offset if Romney takes a lead in the polls, said Tuz.
"At this point, I think markets would appreciate a clear Republican mandate," he added. "That provides the best chance for continued low tax rates. If investors see the likelihood of an Obama victory, coupled with Democrats retaining control of the Senate, they will react by taking advantage of the low tax rates that still exist, so a sell-off in markets would be a distinct possibility."
Some of the anxiety and volatility could also be tempered if lawmakers are able to pass at least a series of temporary extensions before the economy is forced to face most negative impacts of falling off the fiscal cliff, said Cam Albright, director of asset allocation, for Wilmington Trust Investment Advisors.
Economists and the Congressional Budget Office have predicted that the United States could fall back into a recession if the expiring tax cuts and impending spending cuts take effect all at once.
"The fiscal cliff, if implemented in its entirety, would be a disaster for the economy and far worse than the debt ceiling debacle for markets," said Doug Cote, chief market strategist at ING Investment Management.
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