March 15 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. economic growth will have to accelerate to “ridiculously strong levels” to justify any advance for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index above 1,600, said Jim O’Neill, chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management.
After gaining 9.6 percent this year, the S&P 500 is trading at 1,563.23, less than 2 points from a record and within 3 percent of 1,600. O’Neill, who coined the term BRIC in describing the rise of Brazil, Russia, India and China, has an estimate of 1,575 for the U.S. equity benchmark this year. The world’s biggest economy is forecast to grow 1.9 percent in 2013 and 2.7 percent next year.
“In order to justify the S&P above 1,600, we’d have to see growth expectations go to something like 4 percent and beyond,” O’Neill said in a Bloomberg Television interview in Singapore. “I don’t see persistent upside from those kind of levels without some more evidence that the economy would be growing by ridiculously strong levels.”
The S&P 500, which has more than doubled from its bottom in 2009, will trade in a range between 1,500 and 1,600, O’Neill said, without specifying a time period. The 55-year-old economist is stepping down this year after about 18 years at the New York-based investment bank.
O’Neill introduced the term BRIC in a 2001 report predicting that Brazil, Russia, India and China would account for a greater share of world growth. From 2001 through 2010 investors poured more than $60 billion into mutual funds that bought stocks in those countries, according to Cambridge, Massachusetts-based research firm EPFR Global.
The S&P 500 rose 0.6 percent yesterday, nearing a record close of 1,565.15 set in October 2007, after fewer Americans than expected filed for unemployment benefits. The Federal Reserve’s bond purchases, known as quantitative easing, have buoyed shares since March 2009, when the gauge fell to a 12-year low.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if the market carries on its momentum because the consensus view of the economy is now becoming more positive,” O’Neill said. “I’m not sure what comes after that. If it results in the Fed changing their view and becoming more optimistic and they start to pull away from QE, I would guess the stock market would give a bit back.”
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