What You Need to Know
- A slew of stock strategists have been forced to ratchet up their predictions as equities extended their climb this year.
- But many broadly forecast a market downturn in 2024, even as signs mount that the U.S. economy may avoid a recession.
Stock-market strategists who were largely wrong about this year’s rally are finally starting to come to face their mistake, raising year-end targets for the S&P 500 Index.
Take Societe Generale’s Manish Kabra, who boosted his year-end target last week on the index to 4,750 from 4,300 — 25% above his original call of 3,800 heading into 2023.
Or Piper Sandler & Co.’s Michael Kantrowitz and BNP Paribas SA’s Greg Boutle, who at 3,225 and 3,400 had held the lowest targets among sell-side forecasters. They were cornered into lifting their 2023 outlooks in recent months just to keep up with this year’s 15.9% rally.
And then there’s Morgan Stanley’s Mike Wilson, a stalwart bear, who conceded in July that he was pessimistic for too long. Though he still sees U.S. stocks falling more than 10% before the year is out.
“Group think and psychology is a primary driver of strategists’ behavior,” Adam Sarhan, founder of 50 Park Investments, said. “So many strategists have been wrong for so long this year, so many have been forced to adjust their targets as they try to catch up with the stock market.”
While strategists have largely capitulated on their forecasts for 2023, they aren’t quite ready to turn into bulls. Kabra, for example, expects the S&P 500 to fall to 3,800 by the middle of next year, driven by a consumer-spending crunch. It closed Friday at 4,450.
He’s not alone. Strategists broadly forecast a market downturn in 2024, even as signs mount that the U.S. economy may avoid a recession — the rate of inflation has cooled overall, retail sales remain strong, and the Federal Reserve is expected to hold interest rates steady this week.
For investors with money on the line, the gloom on Wall Street creates a dilemma. It’s a reminder that the Fed’s efforts to tame inflation still threaten the economy.
At the same time, stocks overcame the same threats in 2023 and now, with Corporate America’s improving profit outlook and the Fed itself seeing no signs of a recession, some market watchers are concluding that the bears are going to be wrong again.
To Sarhan, an equities bull who favors technology and growth stocks, it all drives home how the stakes are different for those who monitor the market — like strategists — and those who manage client money.
“The pressure is extremely different as a money manager,” he said. “Not only do you have to be right, but you must beat the market as well — or clients will walk out on you.”