SocGen equity strategists upbeat on S&P 500 near-term, cautious into 2024

Logo of Societe Generale in Nantes

By Lewis Krauskopf

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. S&P 500 is set to rise into the end of the year as investors price in a more upbeat economic outlook, according to Societe Generale strategists, who also issued more gloomy projections for stock returns in 2024.

SocGen on Tuesday raised its S&P 500 price target for the end of 2023 to 4,750 from 4,300. The new target is roughly 6% above Monday's closing level but just shy of the index's all-time record close from January 2022.

In the coming months, calls for a recession will be "deleted/delayed," the SocGen equity strategists said in a report. "Put another way, we stay bullish near term."

The strategists also saw support for the S&P 500 coming from AI-driven investments, while the U.S. benchmark index is also attractive against many other international equity markets, as "we have stagflation in Europe and disinflationary downturn in China."

The S&P 500 has climbed about 16.5% so far in 2023, against a 7% rise for Europe's STOXX 600, a 2% gain for MSCI's emerging markets index and a 25% jump for Japan's Nikkei.

"We believe the S&P 500 will be the ‘last man standing’, in terms of defending its returns," the strategists said in the report.

However, the firm's economists still view a U.S. recession as the "core scenario," even if delayed. SocGen gave an S&P 500 target of 3,800 for the second quarter of next year, saying they expected a "shock" to the index "likely driven by a contraction in U.S. consumer spending."

The firm then projects the index to rise by the fourth quarter of 2024 back to 4,750, the same target as the end of 2023.

Among the negative risks cited by the firm is if the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield hits 5% or higher, up from about 4.3% currently. Such a yield move would push the S&P 500 back to 4,000, the strategists said.

(Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf; Editing by Sharon Singleton)