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As the Stock Market Rallies to Record Heights, Wall Street Changes Its Target for the S&P 500 for 2024

March 24, 2024
minute read

The unprecedented surge in the stock market has taken many of Wall Street's leading strategists by surprise, prompting them to swiftly adjust their year-end forecasts for the S&P 500.

As 2024 began, investment banks and research firms anticipated modest yet positive gains for U.S. stocks following the unexpectedly robust performance in 2023. However, lingering concerns about interest rates and inflation led to a cautious outlook, casting doubt on whether stocks could sustain their upward trajectory.

This cautious sentiment was abruptly shattered by a renewed wave of enthusiasm for artificial intelligence (AI) and assurances from the Federal Reserve regarding its commitment to three interest rate cuts amidst persistent inflation concerns. Consequently, stocks embarked on a seemingly unstoppable streak of record highs.

According to Dow Jones Market Data, the S&P 500 index achieved its 20th all-time closing high in 2024 on Thursday, while the Nasdaq Composite and the Dow Jones Industrial Average also notched record highs. The unexpected rally caught many forecasters off guard, prompting some to revise their predictions upwards.

Over the past two months, at least five Wall Street banks have raised their year-end targets for the S&P 500. Société Générale, for instance, increased its target to 5,500 from 4,750, signaling a potential 5% upside from current levels. Similarly, Bank of America and Barclays recently adjusted their targets to 5,400 and 5,300, respectively, citing economic resilience and strong earnings from technology giants.

Goldman Sachs revised its forecast to 5,200, aligning with other bullish forecasters such as Oppenheimer and Fundstrat. Collectively, these adjustments place the median target for the S&P 500 at 5,200 by the end of 2024, implying minimal change from current levels.

Despite the optimism among many analysts, some remain bearish about the stock market's prospects for 2024. Morgan Stanley's Michael Wilson, for instance, maintains a year-end target of 4,500, significantly below current levels. JPMorgan Chase offers an even more pessimistic projection, foreseeing the S&P 500 ending the year at 4,200.

However, investors should approach these forecasts with caution, considering Wall Street's historical inaccuracies in predicting market movements. A bottom-up approach, which aggregates company-level estimates from industry analysts, suggests a more optimistic outlook, with the S&P 500 expected to advance by 7% over the next twelve months.

Despite uncertainties, U.S. stocks recorded strong gains for the week, with all major indexes posting their best performances of 2024. This further underscores the challenges in accurately predicting market movements and the importance of considering multiple perspectives when making investment decisions.

Adan Harris
Managing Editor
Eric Ng
John Liu
Editorial Board
Bryan Curtis
Adan Harris
Managing Editor
Cathy Hills
Associate Editor

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