Barclays and UBS see more pain ahead for stocks. Here’s why

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Despite 2022’s steep losses and extreme volatility in stocks, UBS and Barclays are still not calling the bottom. UBS’ chief investment officer Mark Haefele said history suggested the market would only bottom when investors start to expect looser monetary policy over the next six to 12 months or economic activities hit a trough. He thinks those triggers are not present yet. “We do not believe these conditions have been fulfilled,” Haefele said in a note. “Although the Federal Reserve is likely to finish hiking rates in the first quarter of 2023, the latest inflation and labor market data suggest that interest rate cuts remain a distant prospect.” The S & P 500 just came off its fourth negative week in five with a 1.6% loss last week. A hotter-than-expected inflation reading stoked wild price swings in the markets as investors readjusted their expectations for the Fed’s coming rate hikes. Many on Wall Street believe that the Fed’s bold action could tip the economy into a recession. The central bank is tightening monetary policy at its most aggressive pace since the 1980s. “Despite the increased risks to growth and the rise in volatility, equity markets have neither become cheaper relative to bonds, nor yet priced in a material slowdown in growth and earnings,” Haefele said. The S & P 500 is down about 22% on the year, and the equity benchmark hit a new 2022 low last week amid wild price swings. Barclays sees the market sell-off extend well into 2023 as it believes stock valuations, while much lower now, are still not reflecting the risk of a recession. “Under most likely scenarios of growth and inflation, equities will struggle through FY23,” Venu Krishna, Barclays’ U.S. equity strategist, said in a note. “Both valuations and consensus earnings estimates are disconnected from fundamentals … Despite substantial pain already, the bottom for equities is much lower.” The S & P 500 is now trading around 15.5 times forward earnings, closer to Barclays’ fair value estimate of 14 times, the firm said. However, stocks are still not discounting the earnings damage resulting from a slowdown in growth, let alone the risk of a recession, Krishna said. Barclays said its mostly likely scenario for the S & P 500 is to end 2022 at 3,200, which is about 12% below where the benchmark traded on Monday. In the case of a recession, the Wall Street firm sees the S & P 500 hitting 2,982 by the year end, nearly 19% lower from here.

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