(Bloomberg) — Heading into this year, Wall Street’s top prognosticators were almost universally expecting further pain for the stock market after 2022’s disaster. Only a handful saw a rebound coming.
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It turns out those few were spot on.
A year ago, closely watched forecasters like JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Marko Kolanovic and Morgan Stanley’s Mike Wilson were saying higher interest rates and an eventual economic downturn would trigger additional losses.
But some ever-bullish counterparts, including Fundstrat Global Advisors LLC’s Tom Lee, Oppenheimer Asset Management’s John Stoltzfus, and Brian Belski at BMO Capital Markets projected a recovery, citing excessive pessimism. Carson Group Holdings LLC’s Ryan Detrick anticipated economic resilience would propel stocks. Meanwhile, Bank of America Corp.’s Savita Subramanian led a wave of forecasters turning positive at mid-year.
“We talked about the market maybe making new highs and people thought we were crazy,” said Detrick, chief market strategist at Carson Group. “But we were surprised at the overwhelming negativity that was out there. It’s important for people to remember that the market had priced in a lot of bad news.”
Read more: Strategists’ S&P 500 Index Estimates for Year-End 2024
Now, with the S&P 500 Index points away from a record high, these bulls can claim a measure of vindication after failing to predict last year’s rout. For 2024, they see more strength as the labor market remains solid and conviction about Federal Reserve rate cuts rises.
Below is a breakdown of how they approached the market in 2023 and their outlook for 2024. At around 4,768 points as of Tuesday’s close, the S&P 500 is up 24% this year.
Tom Lee, Fundstrat
With a target of 4,750 at the start of 2023, Lee, co-founder and head of research, came closest to predicting the trajectory of the S&P 500 among strategists tracked by Bloomberg.
His analysis showed the chance of a 20% rally was double following the index’s 19% slump in 2022. He saw three main drivers: His research indicated inflation was going to ebb faster than most anticipated; companies were prepared to handle higher rates, given the Fed’s warnings; and volatility was highly elevated.
“It’s impossible for markets to stay at that level of anxiety, and when inflation diminishes — which is what happened — then stocks actually levitate because the selling pressure is ending,” he said.
Lee remains among the most bullish forecasters for next year, with an S&P 500 target of 5,200.
Brian Belski, BMO
Entering this year, Belski, the firm’s chief investment strategist, had a target of 4,300 for the US stock benchmark, one of the most bullish forecasts among strategists monitored by Bloomberg before he and others upgraded their calls later in the year to keep up with the market’s advance.
He saw market sentiment as excessively negative at the end of 2022, which he said would spur demand for liquidity-driven and “opportunistically oversold” assets.
“Stocks lead earnings, which lead the economy, and it’s absolutely ridiculous when I hear people saying ‘I’m going to wait, the recession will tell us when to buy stocks.’ No, it won’t. Stocks tell you when we’re going to have a recession,” he said. “People have become too formulaic and stuck in their ways.”
For 2024, Belski expects a resilient labor market, easing consumer-price pressures and rate cuts in the second half of the year to drive the S&P 500 to 5,100.
John Stoltzfus, Oppenheimer
Heading into 2023, Stoltzfus, the firm’s chief investment strategist, saw the S&P 500 closing the year at 4,400. At the time, his call was one of the rosiest on the street.
The forecaster said inflation trending lower supported sentiment, and while bears deemed earnings estimates too optimistic, he called them “right-sized.”
“The markets became grossly oversold in the process of the selloffs that occurred in 2022,” he said. “Bear markets are always oversold, and then it’s recognized that they’re oversold, and you get some kind of a rally.”
He’s staying optimistic, predicting the S&P 500 will hit 5,200 before 2024 is out.
Savita Subramanian, Bank of America
Subramanian, head of US equity and quantitative strategy, emerged as one of this year’s winners thanks to a mid-year call to turn positive on stocks.
Although she entered 2023 with a downbeat view, with a call of 4,000, she shifted in May to a bullish stance, and a wave of sell-side forecasters followed suit. She upgraded her year-end target on the S&P 500 twice, to 4,600.
“It felt like a tough message to deliver to clients,” she said. Coming after the regional banking tumult, “there was a sense that this was the beginning of the end and everything was going to go the way of 2008.” When it feels difficult to make a call, “those are the times that you’re probably going to be more likely right than wrong,” she said.
Subramanian remains bullish heading into 2024, with a target of 5,000. She sees a soft landing and companies and consumers adapting to higher rates as reasons equities can advance.
Ryan Detrick, Carson Group
Detrick expected the US economy to avoid a recession this year. He also bet inflation would cool sooner than the market was expecting. The strategist added exposure to stocks during the banking turmoil in March and as the S&P 500 sank in October.
“The March selloff was quite scary,” Detrick said. “But we said then it was just a few bad actors and it wasn’t going to be systemic.”
The strategist doesn’t anticipate a recession next year either, and expects some of this year’s laggards — rather than the so-called Magnificent Seven technology stocks — to power “low double-digit” returns in equities. “Small-caps, mid-caps and financials — those are our three favorites.”
–With assistance from Jessica Menton, Matt Turner, Kate Seaman and Lu Wang.
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