July 21st, 2009
02:53 PM GMT
LONDON, England– In the past week, investor sentiment has turned decidedly more positive. On Monday, the Standard and Poor's 500 Index hit an eight-month high. Better than expected earnings from Goldman Sachs in financials, to Intel in tech, to Caterpillar the biggest maker of earth moving equipment, have all helped push the market higher.
Investment banks are raising their year-end projections for the S&P 500. Credit Suisse is advising clients to cut their bond holdings and buy stocks, reversing their advice from June. The bank has raised its year-end guidance for the benchmark index by 14 percent to 1,050, citing better earnings and economic conditions.
Goldman Sachs is also turning more bullish. It has a year-end target of 1,060 for the S&P 500. "Improvement in ex-financial earnings per share, stabilization in profit margins and higher forward EPS guidance all point to a rising market through 2009," its chief U.S. investment strategist, David Kostin wrote this week.
He also raised his 2009 and 2010 earnings estimates for the S&P 500 companies to $52 a share and $75 a share, substantially higher than his previous estimates (a 30 percent increase over his previous 2009 estimate and a 19 percent increase over his previous 2010 estimate.)
However, Kostin is hedging his bets, saying the biggest risk to his forecast is the possibility of a prolonged economic slump.
He also points to budget cutbacks from state and local governments, a higher savings rate, and a weak housing market as keeping consumer and business spending in check.
Goldman is among the most bullish of Wall Street investment banks on equities. Others include JP Morgan which has a target of 1100 year end for the S&P 500. At the other end of the spectrum, HSBC and Morgan Stanley both have a target of 900.
The S&P 500 has risen some 40 percent from its March low, and if the bulls are right, the rally has further to go. So far, some 79 percent of S&P 500 companies have beaten earnings forecasts, the best showing since 1993.
For the rally to continue, companies will have to continue to beat forecasts, and investors will have to remain confident that the economy will continue to improve.
Do you think the rally has come too far too fast?
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