The stock market
closed at a fresh all-time high today.
And some investors are understandably nervous about what’s next.
For the most part, the experts aren’t recommending dumping stocks.
However, at least four of Wall Street’s top strategists have reduced their bullish positions to something much more neutral.
“U.S. equities have gained 25% year to date and the S&P 500 is above 1750, which is the outer end of the range we estimated at the start of the year,” said Nuveen Asset Management’s Bob Doll. “We believe the risk-reward tradeoff has become more neutral.”
“Our view is S&P 500 trades at fair value and the forward path of the index will follow the trajectory of profit growth,” said Goldman Sachs’ David Kostin in a new note to clients.
BlackRock’s Russ Koesterich shares Kostin’s view.
“U.S. stocks are now trading at roughly 2.5x book value, a 15% increase from the end of 2012,” said Koesterich last week. “In other words, the majority of this year’s gains have come through higher multiples, not a boom in corporate earnings. And while U.S. stocks still look reasonable compared to history, they are looking fully valued relative to an environment of 2% growth. This does not mean the market is due for a correction, but simply that going forward, gains need to be more driven by earnings growth; otherwise, U.S. stocks will start to climb into overvalued territory.”
Morgan Stanley’s Adam Parker has definitely been one of the more cautious strategists on Wall Street. But in recent months he’s been increasingly bullish because of how he interprets the complicated calculus of the markets. From his note to clients today:
The confusion for investors may be that even though the current corporate conditions seem mediocre, if tapering isn’t an issue until 2014, it gives investors a green light between now and year-end to take risk. That’s why we have remained bullish through the last three months and why we remain constructive today: mediocre base case below the consensus expectations + low probability of bear case = market rally?
The takeaway from Parker’s statement is that he’s “constructive,” which is one of the more lukewarm endorsements for stocks without explicitly expressing bullishness.
“Our investment advice has been to keep the portfolio beta near 1.0x,” said Parker. In other words, don’t get too fancy with you equity investments — your best bet is to just stick with the S&P 500.
“Neutral,” “fair value,” “fully valued,” and “constructive” are definitely not as exciting as “buy,” “overweight,” “attractive,” and “undervalued.”