S&P 500 Is Already Trading at Wall Street's Year-end Forecast

  • Index reaches estimates in February for second time since 1999
  • Analysts’ 5.2% forecast is lowest projected gain in 12 years

Morgan Stanley Sees Under-Appreciation of Risk

2017 is basically over, at least for the S&P 500 Index.

The market bellwether has already reached the average year-end target of Wall Street analysts with a 5.5 percent gain since December, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The average estimate is 2,364, with the highest and lowest predictions sitting at 2,500 and 2,275. The index touched 2,366.24 Tuesday, an intraday record.

The only year that the S&P 500 exceeded strategists’ year-end target by February was 2012, according to data compiled by Bloomberg that goes back to 1999.

Strategists were uncharacteristically pessimistic this year after a post-election rally boosted stocks around the world. The average forecast for 2017 as of mid-December was calling for growth of a mere 5.2 percent. The average year-end target since 2000 had been for a 9.3 percent advance.

Despite the torrid start for stocks, analysts haven’t been racing to boost their 2017 forecasts. In fact, among analysts surveyed by Bloomberg, only Stifel Nicolaus & Co. strategist Barry Bannister has upped his year-end price target, to 2,400 from 2,300.

That stocks came flying out of the gates in the first quarter won’t surprise some strategists -- even the ones who are relatively bearish on the full-year outlook.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. chief U.S. equity strategist David Kostin, for one, predicted that ’hope’ surrounding the reflation trade would buoy stocks early in 2017 and take the S&P 500 to 2,400 before the euphoria wore off.

“Fear is likely to pervade during second half and the S&P 500 will end 2017 at 2,300,” he concluded.