Analysts from across the Street have now put their predictions in for 2020, and the outlook is not as rosy as one would expect from a bunch of analysts who get paid to be bullish. The consensus outlook for equities can best be described as “meeehhh”. Morgan Stanley, UBS, and Stifel are forecasting that the S&P 500 will fall next year, while Citi, BAML, and Goldman are forecasting rises, but modest ones (single digits at the high end). Taken as an average, analysts think stocks will rise just 3% next year.
FINSUM: A published 3% forecasted rise by Wall Street research analysts feels more like they are expecting a 10% loss.
One of the biggest banks on Wall Street has just made a bold call on gold. Citi says that the precious metal is likely to shoot to $2,000 or more within the next 24 months. The bank argues that a dovish cutting cycle by the Fed will be a catalyst for price gains, which will be supported by a weakening economy and worries over the trade war. According to Citi, “We expect spot gold prices to trade stronger for longer . . . posting new cyclical highs at some point in the next year or two”. Standard Chartered, another big bank, also made the interesting comment that “It does seem that gold’s status within the portfolio has been reignited”.
FINSUM: The most interesting comment here is about gold’s role in a portfolio. For many years it seemed that investors had forgotten about gold’s role in diversification, but it finally seems to have made a comeback.
Economic data this year has mostly surprised to the upside. However, recently, things have started to disappoint. For instance, Citigroup’s basket of economic indicators has fallen to its lowest level since the Financial Crisis. Even the Atlanta Fed is bearish, recently forecasting GDP at 1.6%. Bond King Jeffrey Gundlach agrees, saying he believes the odds of a recession in the next 24 months are “very high”. He believes the chances of a recession within 12 months are 50-50.
FINSUM: We think Citi’s indicator is definitely overstating the situation. However, there are legitimate concerns about the economy, especially if you start to consider the possible implications of a trade war.
The markets are gleeful right now. Stocks are up 25% since their bottom in December, and things on the economic and Fed fronts look rosy. However, Citi says investors need to get out of some assets before “rain spoils the picnic”. The bank is worried about the difference between asset prices and underlying economic conditions (when looking globally). Its biggest area of worry is in corporate bonds, which have seen spreads to investment grade narrow sharply, especially in high yields, which look overvalued. Investment grade debt is troubling too, as debt levels jumped by their biggest amount in 18 years over the last 4 months. Citi thinks companies are burning through way too much cash for the growth levels they are achieving.
FINSUM: So Citi thinks this is going to be a bond market reckoning (which would surely impact stocks too). That is different than the consensus, but perhaps a good way to view the situation.
One of the largest banks on Wall Street has just gone on the record calling for a major equity market firestorm. In an unusual move, Citi questions the recent rise in stocks and contends that things may unravel quickly. “It may be that easing trade tensions and China’s policy response are comforting investors, but the move has the hallmarks of herd instincts at work”. Citi continued, “riding the tailwinds of easy policy and fiscal stimulus, but these drivers are failing. Meanwhile storm clouds are gathering and risks look biased to the downside”. Goldman Sachs seconded the views, saying that market gains had been too narrow and would lead to “large drawdowns”.
FINSUM: It has been quite puzzling that stock prices have moved higher and higher even as the trade war was looking worse and worse and the Fed continued to be committed to its tightening path. Sharp reversal coming?