March 2024 Stock Market Outlook

We continue to find value in the basic materials sector as the bubble in lithium prices has popped and fallen too far to the downside and gold-mining companies provide an attractive upside option. Treasury bond neared 5% last fall, stocks sold off, dropping well into undervalued territory. However, this year’s “Santa Claus Rally” came early as long-term interest rates subsided in November and then the rally was boosted even further following the December Fed meeting. The market interpreted Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s remarks to indicate that not only is the Fed done hiking rates, but it is also now considering when to begin easing monetary policy. It’s been a good start to the year for stock market investors with the S&P 500 (SPX) up more than 7%, and well above the cycle lows.

  1. While we don’t have a crystal ball, we do believe that a “pause” by the Fed can and will occur in the next six months, with the implied easing of policy conditions working as a tailwind for stock market sentiment.
  2. While the rate of economic growth may slow, we expect that, in a more normalized economic environment, the prior fears about small-cap solvency should alleviate.
  3. NerdWallet, Inc. does not offer advisory or brokerage services, nor does it recommend or advise investors to buy or sell particular stocks, securities or other investments.
  4. For example, the Magnificent Seven accounted for 75% of the market return at the end of June, but as of Dec. 21, they account for only 52%.
  5. In other words, interest rates at the current level are not the end of the world.

But the actual market effects of interest rate decisions are more complex, because investors tend to “price in” their expectations of what will happen ahead of time. The chart above shows the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s FedWatch tool, which uses the federal funds futures market to show the odds of different interest rate scenarios. It’s kind of like using betting odds to predict the outcome of a game — it’s not foolproof, but it provides a very educated guess about an uncertain future event.

Another dot plot is due after the March meeting, and if the median FOMC estimate for end-of-2024 interest rates is even lower, that could imply that the timetable for rate cuts has accelerated. Things really start to get interesting when you look at the probabilities for the June meeting, however. At the time of writing, FedWatch gives the Fed a 51% chance of cutting rates by 25 basis points — and a 12% chance of cutting them by 50 basis points.

In addition, since 1950, when the S&P 500 is higher in both January and February of the same year, it has continued higher over the next 12 months 27 out of 28 times and generated an average return of 14.8% during those 12 months. The market’s early-year performance has been impressive up to this point, and investors are hopeful that momentum can continue in March. March and April have historically been a strong two-month stretch for the S&P 500. While FOMC officials are no longer forecasting a recession, the latest Federal Reserve economic projections in December suggest a sharp drop in U.S. As prices continue to rise, it is hard to find signs of cooling in the hot U.S. labor market. “The Fed minutes are showing that we’re still likely a few meetings away from a rate cut,” Swanke says.

In addition to CPI inflation coming in above expectations, the personal consumption expenditures price index, or PCE, was up 2.4% year-over-year in January. Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500, Nasdaq, and Morningstar Index (Market Barometer) quotes are real-time. Transparency how to wei: gwei to eth how to calculate and convert gwei to ether is how we protect the integrity of our work and keep empowering investors to achieve their goals and dreams. And we have unwavering standards for how we keep that integrity intact, from our research and data to our policies on content and your personal data.

In Review and 2024 Market Outlooks

Looking forward, we expect that the combination of slowing economic growth and declining inflation will prompt the Fed to begin loosening monetary policy and begin lowering the federal-funds rate, possibly as early as March 2024. We forecast six interest-rate cuts over the course of 2024, double that of the Fed’s current projection. The U.S. economy continued to defy restrictive monetary policy in 2023 as real gross domestic product surged to 5.2% in the third quarter, leading us to increase our real GDP forecast for 2023. However, we still expect that higher interest rates, restrictive monetary policy, and tight lending restrictions will take their toll on the economy.

Is it good to invest in stocks right now?

Beyond a correction lower to commodity and energy prices, and easing supply chain conditions, trends in core categories are seen slowing. Over the next few months, the CPI index will begin hitting tough year-over-year comps pushing the annual rate even lower. This narrative was part of the message from Fed Chairman Powell at the February Fed meeting pointing to the disinflation process while recognizing the process is not completely over yet.

With Stocks Fairly Valued, How Should Investors Position Themselves in 2024?

As it relates to corporate earnings pending the final few weeks of the Q4 earnings season, the S&P 500 is on track to reach 2022 EPS of $219.51, up 5% year-over-year as a “bottom-up” aggregate of all underlying companies. The good news is that companies have been beating EPS estimates, on average, with a trend of ongoing profitability, going back to that theme of resiliency. The data have worked to brush aside the scenario that the U.S. economy was facing a so-called “hard landing”, defined by a deepening recession bringing back parallels to the financial crisis back in 2008. If we think back to the pretext when the S&P 500 was trading under the $3,600 level last June, there’s a lot less uncertainty today which is a good backdrop for stocks.

Gains are increasingly spreading out across other areas in the market that had been left behind. For example, the Magnificent Seven accounted for 75% of the market return at the end of June, but as of Dec. 21, they account for only 52%. Specifically, we continue to see the best opportunity for investors in the value category, which remains the most undervalued according to our valuations, as well as down in capitalization into small-cap stocks. As we wrote in our February outlook, trading on financial news events like Federal Reserve decisions can be hard to do profitably, because the market prices in information very quickly.

We forecast that the rate of economic growth has begun slowing in the fourth quarter of 2023 and the rate of growth will continue to slow until bottoming out in the third quarter of 2024. From there, our expectation for easier monetary policy will allow economic growth to begin to expand steadily thereafter. We think 2024 will be the first year that both the disruptions from the pandemic and all the subsequent dislocations caused by those disruptions will be behind us. While the rate of economic growth may slow, we expect that, in a more normalized economic environment, the prior fears about small-cap solvency should alleviate.

Realtime Prices for Dow Jones Stocks

This risk is reflected in the New York Fed’s U.S. recession probability index, which still projects a 61.5% chance of a recession within the next 12 months. Over the next few months, we think the next test for the markets will come in February and March when companies report earnings. We are not as concerned about earnings as we are that management teams may look to lower the bar on the market’s expectations for earnings growth in 2024 as the rate of economic growth is poised to slow. A bullish scenario would be continuation of the ongoing decline of the CPI, leading the Fed to hold the Fed funds rate steady and marking a key turning point in the cycle.

Data shows that at the end of December, institutional money managers were the most underweight U.S. equities since 2005. If we fast forward, the latest update through the first week of February shows an ongoing shift toward increasing allocations into stocks by that same group turning more bullish. Wayne Duggan has a decade of experience covering breaking market news and providing analysis and commentary related to popular stocks. The Labor Department reported the U.S. economy added 353,000 jobs in January, far exceeding economist estimates of 185,000 new jobs. December and January represent the first time the U.S. has reported back-to-back months adding more than 300,000 jobs since June and July of 2022.

Over the period, we’ll get through several months of key economic indicators including payrolls, retail sales, and industrial activity and we want to see conditions remain strong as good news moves us away from a recession. Similarly, getting into Q1 and Q2 earnings seasons, it will be important for companies to demonstrate the ability to maintain margins and drive profitability. The other side to that discussion is the potential negative consequences to the economy of the higher interest rate environment we’re now in.

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