S&P 500 to end 2024 around current levels after strong run: Reuters poll

By Thomson Reuters May 22, 2024 | 8:06 AM

By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Standard & Poor’s 500 will end the year near current levels, but strong stock market gains so far in 2024 have some strategists saying the index is at risk of a correction in coming months, according to a Reuters poll released Wednesday.

By year-end, the benchmark index will be at 5,302, according to the median forecast of 50 strategists polled May 13-22. That is slightly below Tuesday’s close of 5,321.41.

That latest prediction is still above the 5,100 year-end level forecast in a Reuters poll in February.

The S&P 500 has gained over 11% so far this year and all three major U.S. stock indexes have risen to records recently, thanks in part to economic data that has eased inflation concerns, fuelling bets that the Federal Reserve will start cutting interest rates later in the year.

The poll has the Dow Jones industrial average finishing this year at 40,765 after the index crossed the 40,000 level for the first time last week and closed Tuesday at 39,872.99.

While Federal Reserve officials have hinted U.S. interest rates may not fall anytime soon, many investors still expect the Fed will be able to cut rates twice this year.

Strategists who answered an additional question were almost evenly split on whether a correction was likely in U.S. stocks over the next three months. Eight of 15 respondents said a correction was unlikely, while seven said it was likely.

“Most of the gains have already been gotten,” said Robert Pavlik, senior portfolio manager at Dakota Wealth in Fairfield, Connecticut, who still sees the S&P 500 climbing a bit further to end the year at 5,575.

With the Fed, he said, “my sense is they don’t let us down, meaning they cut rates” this year.

Projections for strong earnings are a positive. Analysts expect overall S&P 500 earnings to rise 10.4% in 2024, LSEG data showed.

But stocks are also at high valuation levels. The S&P 500 trades at a forward price-to-earnings ratio – a commonly used metric to value stocks – of 20.9, well above the index’s historic average of 15.7, according to LSEG Datastream.

Evercore ISI, which has a 4,750 year-end forecast for the S&P 500, expects U.S. earnings estimates to weaken.

“Given the slowing in the economy – and it’s not rampant slowing but noticeable – it creates a greater probability that earnings estimates are just too optimistic,” said Julian Emanuel, Evercore ISI’s senior managing director for equity, derivatives and quantitative strategy.

He added: “It wouldn’t be an issue if it wasn’t for the fact that valuations are where they are.”

Investors are keen to see whether the market can sustain its gains tied to optimism over artificial intelligence developments.

All eyes will be on AI chip leader Nvidia when it reports quarterly results after the closing bell on Wednesday.

(Other stories from the Reuters Q2 global stock markets poll package:)

(Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch; additional reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak, Stephen Culp, Sinead Carew and Chibuike Oguh in New York; additional polling by Pranoy Krishna, Indradip Ghosh, Mumal Rathore and Purujit Arun in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill)