Barron’s published its 2016 Outlook issue this weekend, and not one of the top strategists it surveyed forecast that the S&P 500 would fall next year.
Year-to-date, the index is down 2.25%. It sunk even lower after Friday’s sell-off, to 2,012, ahead of next week when the Federal Reserve will likely raise rates for the first time in a decade.
“Based on their mean forecast, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index will end next year at 2220, an increase of 10% from Friday’s close of 2012,” Barron’s Vito Racanelli wrote. “An advance of that magnitude is more reflective of the market’s rout last week, however, than undue exuberance among our prognosticators. To the contrary, the strategists were more cautious in their comments than in recent years past.”
And so, even these bullish outlooks echo the sentiment of other strategists who are predicting that the new year would bring lots of uncertainty and likely modest returns for the index.
The mean S&P 500 target among the strategists Business Insider is tracking is just a bit lower than Barron’s, at 2205.
The strategists Barron’s surveyed expect that earnings growth, which has been mostly flat this year, would be the major driver of the stock market in 2016, while the price-to-earnings multiple stays mostly unchanged.
Stephen Auth, chief investment officer at Federated Investors, was the most bullish strategist Barron’s surveyed, at 2,500. He told Barron’s that GDP growth of between 2.5% and 3%, and a solid improvement in the energy sector that’s been battered this year, would boost S&P 500 earnings growth.
With only 13 trading days left in 2015, the market would need to stage a strong rally to close flat for the year. And, the strategists who Barron’s surveyed last year that called for a 10% rally in 2015 would most likely turn out to be wrong (we’d note that many forecasts were revised lower as the year unfolded).
We’d remind you that bullish Barron’s covers have been used, unscientifically, as a contrarian indicator that stocks were about to get smoked.
And so, this bullish cover edition may even be good news for some bears.