Wall Street’s Biggest Bull Wishes He'd Been a Bigger Bull

(Yahoo! Finance) - Wall Street’s biggest bull wishes he'd been even more bullish. But he's making up for it now.

“It has become clear to us that we underestimated the strength of the market momentum,” Brian Belski, BMO Capital Markets chief investment strategist, wrote Wednesday morning in a note revising his 2024 year-end forecast to a Street high of 5,600.

Buoyed by Wednesday's moderating inflation numbers, stocks closed at 5,308, making Belski's target 5.5% away.

Underestimation is not what Belski is known for. Last November, the strategist’s team had the high-water mark for 2024 predictions with 5,100, one of the few daring to go past the 5,000 mark.

At the time the index stood at 4,550, over 5% off its January 2022 peak of 4,796.

Belksi’s call proved to be prescient.

And before the calendar flipped, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, and Citi had joined BMO at 5,100, with Oppenheimer and Fundstrat taking pole position at 5,200. And as the S&P 500 blew past the entire Street’s predictions in March, multiple firms adjusted their forecasts.

BMO didn’t, a move that — again — would seem prescient as the index dipped as low as 4,967 in April.

“In late February we decided to draw a line in the sand with respect to our 2024 S&P 500 price target of 5,100 since we believed market performance had run a little too far, too fast,” Belski wrote, referencing the stock market’s rocket-like trajectory that ran well over 20% in just a few months after its October low.

But this prudence was, in fact, a mistake, the strategist said.

In the three months since, the stock market’s dip and recovery to a new all-time high (pick your index; they’re all peaking) are thanks in large part to an alignment in investor expectations and Fed guidance, which Wednesday's retail sales and CPI keep in the right direction.

“We are comfortable with this because we believe the market is behaving in a similar fashion to 2021 and 2023 — years where we did not give enough credit to the strength of market momentum, something we are trying to avoid this time around,” Belski added.

BMO's team found that the first two years of this new bull market are lagging the average performance seen during the first two years of new bull runs. So, with little change in terms of fundamentals or general economic conditions, the revised forecast is underpinned by sentiment, expectations, and the more nebulous aspects of the stock market.

Although BMO’s fresh forecast maps out a great destination for bulls, it does contain a notable warning about possible turbulence.

“We are still skeptical that the 5.5% drawdown that occurred during March-April will be the worst for the S&P 500 this year given historical data that shows an average drawdown of 9.4% for the second year of bull markets historically,” Belski wrote.

A 5,600 year-end with a bigger than 5.5% drop between now and then?

That almost feels more bullish than a simple 5,600 target.

By Ethan Wolff-Mann - Senior Editor


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