This year, stocks have increased in value, and Wall Street expectations have risen along with the market.
As Josh Schafer of Yahoo Finance has been documenting over the past few weeks, analysts from a number of firms have raised their 2023 price projections for the S&P 500 due to the index’s over 15% increase in the first half of the year.
Where Will The Index End?
Tom Lee of Fundstrat predicted last week that the S&P 500 will increase from its current level of about 4,400 to 4,825 by the end of the year. In the past, Lee had predicted that the index will end 2023 at 4,750.
And even though the majority of conversation regarding index expectations focuses on what “top-down” strategists predict will occur for S&P 500 businesses as a whole, analysts who cover individual equities have been slowly becoming more optimistic about the index’s prospects over the past several months.
Late last week, the FactSet team examined “bottom-up” projections for the S&P 500, which include analyst price targets for the index’s constituent businesses. They discovered that market experts anticipate the index reaching 4,823 over the following 12 months, representing an increase of around 9%.
A few significant inflection moments for investors this year can be seen in the FactSet chart that is shown below.
“Bottom-up” expectations for the S&P 500 increased from late January through late February as first quarter profits turned out to be higher than anticipated.
Then, in late April, a number of significant IT companies announced earnings that exceeded forecasts. One of the largest guidance increases you’re likely to see from a firm of its scale was reported by Nvidia (NVDA) at the end of May.
Now, some people won’t be surprised by the analysts’ optimism. Only 6% of ratings on all equities in the S&P 500 were Sell or comparable, according to research from FactSet last year, while 57% of analyst recommendations on stocks were Buy or equivalent.
And as Matt Levine of Bloomberg noted in a previous article, a big part of the value Wall Street analysts offer is ensuring that their clients have some access to the management teams of the companies they work with.
Analysts also provide clients with a pre-built financial model for a firm that they may modify at a later time, as well as possibly a subject matter expert who is prepared to respond to inquiries from a more generalist investor at, say, a hedge fund interested in learning more about the chemicals industry.
Companies Received A Positive Rating
In other words, it’s not quite the job to say if Wall Street analysts genuinely suggest which equities increase in value and by how much. Because an analyst’s role is to maintain a relationship with management teams, the overall result is that the majority of companies receive a positive rating.
Strategists are frequently criticised for merely following the market higher or lower if corporate analysts are derided for being overly subservient to the companies they cover.
The latter view is a little too harshly simplified, though, as we noted in a previous article. And this is especially true when considering how recently analysts’ collective opinions have altered.
As earnings expectations have increased, stocks have been gaining. Earnings ultimately determine stock returns.
The biggest gap between strategists, analysts, and stock prices this year has been timing, which is true both on Wall Street and in real life. But it appears that timetable synchronisation is getting closer.