STRATEGIST: Wall Street might as well pick year-end targets for stocks on a roulette wheel in Vegas

For Raymond James, setting a year-end forecast for the S&P 500 is like gambling.

Towards the end of every year, most major Wall Street firms send their clients big outlook notes that include their forecasts of where the S&P 500 would end the following year. These usually range from ultra-bullish calls to the boring consensus views and the occasional bearish price target.

And then, a few analysts release targets but then add that the index could rise to a certain level or fall to another — a bull and bear case. This accounts for the intra-year volatility that’s most likely to rock markets, but is probably another way of saying they don’t know what will happen.

Raymond James has abstained from all of this. In a note on Thursday, Andrew Adams, a market strategist at the firm, discussed why:

“Sure, if you get close enough to the actual number you can pat yourself on the back and feel like a genius for a time (until the next year at least), but there will still be those critics who say “you just got lucky” even if you do get it right (see the limited upside?). There is also a much greater potential to look very, very dumb, as strategists across the board did in 2008 when their average estimate for the year-end S&P 500 closing price was JUST SLIGHTLY off by -49.6% (per Bespoke Investment Group).

So, considering the shaky history of these predictions, we might as well send all market strategists to Las Vegas and have them pick a number on the roulette wheel if this game of forecasting the future is more for entertainment purposes anyway. I personally think that would be more fun…”

The Bespoke piece also showed that strategists’ average forecast for 2017 reflects an expectation for a 3% gain in the S&P 500 to 2,414, which is not very bullish.

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