The fast-spreading Omicron variant isn't shaking the confidence (yet) on Goldman Sachs' call for double-digit percentage returns for the S&P 500 next year.
Goldman's chief U.S. equity strategist David Kostin reiterated Monday an S&P 500 target by the end of 2022 of 5,100. The figure marks a potential 12% increase in stock prices as measured from the S&P 500's current level.
"We expect that these gains will be driven primarily by earnings per share growth of 8% combined with a stable P/E multiple. This pattern would be consistent with the decomposition of returns usually seen at this point in the business cycle and would mimic the pattern of this year, where earnings lifted the market to record highs while the index multiple actually contracted," Kostin explained.
To be sure, Kostin's optimism on the market outlook is reflected elsewhere on Wall Street. Take, for instance, the bullishness on the ratings assigned to individual stocks by sell-side analysts.
Overall, there are 10,785 ratings on stocks in the S&P 500, according to data out of FactSet. Of these 10,785 ratings, 56.8% are Buy ratings, 37.2% are Hold ratings, and 6.0% are Sell ratings. Energy, Communication Services, Information Technology, and Health Care have the most Buy ratings.
"It is interesting to note that even with a 24% price increase since the end of last year (December 31, 2020), analysts are more optimistic on S&P 500 stocks today compared to December 31, 2020, based on the percentages of Buy ratings. On December 31 (2020), 53.7% of ratings on S&P 500 stocks were Buy ratings compared to 56.8% today. Nine sectors have a higher percentage Buy ratings now compared to December 31 (2020), led by the Real Estate (to 54% from 47%) and Materials (to 56% from 50%) sectors," added FactSet senior earnings analyst John Butters.
But the optimism for the markets in 2022 could soon take a hit if current trading patterns persist.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged nearly 700 points Monday as the highly contagious Omicron variant continued to spread and disrupt global economic activity. The latest example: the World Economic Forum held in Davos was postponed as Switzerland clamped down on mobility.
Big-cap tech stocks such as Meta, Google and AMD were hit again on growth fears. Travel stocks Delta Air Lines and JetBlue came under pressure as well.
Kostin's co-worker Jan Hatzius did his part to fuel some of those growth concerns.
Goldman's chief economist slashed his first quarter 2022 GDP growth estimate to 2% from 3%, citing primarily President Biden's Build Back Better legislation now looking dead in the water.
"The Omicron variant is also likely to shift political attention back to virus-related issues and away from long-term reforms," said Hatzius.
Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.
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