A handful of Wall Street’s biggest firms are slashing their S&P 500 forecasts for the year, predicting lower stock market returns thanks to a difficult quarterly earnings season ahead as companies wrestle with surging inflation and rising interest rates.
With the stock market down roughly 20% so far this year amid fears of a looming recession, there are “lots of reasons to be concerned” about upcoming corporate earnings—with an incoming “flurry of downward revisions,” Bank of America warned in a recent note.
Though quarterly earnings season has just started, Wall Street analysts are slashing forecasts—with seven out of 11 S&P 500 sectors facing reduced earnings estimates, according to FactSet data.
UBS on Monday slashed its earnings forecasts due to slowing economic growth and rising costs, with the firm also reducing its year-end price target for the S&P 500 to 4,150—down from a previous estimate of 4,850.
Evercore ISI also cut its year-end S&P 500 target the same day, to 4,200 from 4,300, as analysts sounded the alarm on corporate margins and earnings being “under pressure as prospective recession scenarios develop.”
One of Wall Street’s biggest bears (who has also warned of further downward earnings revisions) is Morgan Stanley chief strategist Mike Wilson who is maintaining a year-end S&P 500 target of just 3,900, while also predicting the index could fall as low as 3,000 if a recession hits.
Even some of Wall Street’s most optimistic strategists are slashing their S&P forecasts somewhat, including Oppenheimer chief investment strategist John Stoltzfus, who reduced his estimate to 4,800 from 5,330 amid “palpable risks of recession.”
Despite the gloomier forecasts recently, most Wall Street firms still predict a market rebound by the end of 2022, with the majority of price targets implying modest upside from the S&P 500’s current level of around 3,850. UBS and Evercore ISI’s most recent forecasts for the benchmark index both imply roughly 8% upside from current prices, while Oppenheimer’s price target suggests the market will rally nearly 25%. Even Morgan Stanley’s bearish outlook of 3,900 would mean stocks post a slight gain by the end of the year.
Even as recession fears remain front and center, not all Wall Street firms are forecasting an economic downturn. Analysts at Credit Suisse, for instance, also slashed their S&P 500 price target (to 4,300 from 4,900) but argued that the economy’s current slowdown is not recessionary. “Recessions are most accurately characterized by a meltdown in employment accompanied by an inability of consumers and businesses to meet their financial obligations,” Credit Suisse analyst Jonathan Golub said in a note on Tuesday. “While we are currently experiencing a meaningful slowdown in economic growth (from extremely high levels), neither of the above conditions are present today.” UBS strategist Keith Parker similarly sees slowing growth “but no recession,” with modest gains for the stock market ahead as he predicts high inflation will eventually subside.
What To Watch For:
Investors remain “nervous” about the upcoming inflation report on Wednesday, with experts predicting that consumer prices for June will surge higher than the 8.6% recorded in May.