Goldman Sachs lifts STOXX 600 annual target to 540

By Thomson Reuters Mar 25, 2024 | 2:45 AM

(Reuters) – Goldman Sachs on Monday raised its 2024 year-end target for Europe’s STOXX 600 index to 540 from 510, citing potential improvement in economic growth and monetary policy easing across central banks.

The brokerage’s new target for the pan-European benchmark index implied a nearly 6% upside from Friday’s close of 509.64.

“If economic growth modestly accelerates and central banks embark on a rate-cutting cycle in June, as our economists expect, valuations will rise further,” Lilia Peytavin, portfolio strategist at Goldman Sachs said in a note.

Major central banks such as the U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank have hinted at probable interest rate cuts in June.

Recent data showed euro zone business activity was within a whisker of returning to growth in March, outperforming expectations, while the U.S. business activity held steady.

The Wall Street brokerage, which previously lifted its index target in mid-February, now estimates the STOXX 600’s valuation can increase about 2.5% this year.

“Equities have probably reached the optimism phase, the last one of the equity cycle, in which multiples tend to rise while profit growth slows,” Peytavin added.

Goldman argued that over the last six months, European equities climbed 12%, and all of this rally has been driven by an improvement in valuations rather than earnings growth.

The STOXX 600 currently trades at about 15 times its one-year forward price-to-earnings (PE) ratio, while the S&P 500 index trades at 26 times its one-year forward PE ratio, according to LSEG data. A lower PE multiple indicates a more attractive investment opportunity.

Goldman, however, warned that rising oil prices could pose a two-sided risk to its forecasts – while they could push back the timing of interest rate cuts, they also provide an ‘upside risk’ to earnings-per-share growth.

The brokerage also lifted on Monday its 2024 target for the UK’s benchmark FTSE 100 index to 8,200 from 7,900.

(Reporting by Siddarth S and Kanchana Chakravarty in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Sherry Jacob-Phillips)