JPMorgan strategists see ‘challenging’ backdrop for US stocks in 2024

By Lewis Krauskopf

NEW YORK (Reuters) – J.P. Morgan equity strategists on Wednesday issued a dour outlook for U.S. stocks for the year ahead, pointing to weak expected earnings growth, expensive valuations and high geopolitical risks.

The bank projected a 2024 price target for the benchmark S&P 500 of 4,200, or about 8% below current levels.

Absent rapid easing of monetary policy by the Federal Reserve, “we expect a more challenging macro backdrop for stocks next year,” J.P. Morgan’s Dubravko Lakos-Bujas and his team said in an outlook report on Wednesday.

The firm expects S&P 500 earnings growth of 2% to 3% in 2024 — a rate that’s well below the consensus analyst estimate of 11.4% growth next year, according to LSEG data.

Consensus earnings-per-share estimates are in sync with assumptions of a “Goldilocks” environment that sees inflation cool without a significant hit to demand and pricing power, the firm said in its report.

“In contrast to this robust outlook, we expect lower sequential revenue growth, no margin expansion, and lower buyback executions,” the strategists wrote.

Current valuations are “rich,” J.P. Morgan said, “especially in light of the aging business cycle, restrictive monetary policy, and geopolitical risks.”

Those risks include two major wars and 40 countries holding national elections including the U.S., which the strategists expect will drive equity volatility to be generally higher in 2024 than in 2023.

Further, the strategists said a recession is “a live risk for next year even though investors are not pricing in this uncertainty consistently across geographies, styles, and sectors yet.”

(Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf, Editing by Nick Zieminski)