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Goldman, Morgan Stanley Say Any Drop in Stocks Likely to Be Small

(Bloomberg) — Wall Street’s chief bull and bear now agree on one thing: any stock market correction next year will likely be a moderate pullback, rather than a dramatic plunge.

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Morgan Stanley strategists led by Michael Wilson said Monday that they are now more confident that the S&P 500 index will drop about 6.6% by the end of 2022 to 4,400 points. While this is among the most pessimistic Wall Street estimates for next year tracked by Bloomberg, it’s far from predicting a bear market.

Over at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., strategists reiterated their forecast that stocks will continue advancing next year, although at a “slower pace.” They too, however, said that a small retreat is likely in the cards.

“While these levels do not tell us that a bear market is imminent, they do imply higher risks of a correction and more vulnerability to disappointments (growth or interest rate driven),” the strategists led by Peter Oppenheimer wrote in a note. Current index levels, they said, indicate low single-digit returns over 12 months with a maximum drop between 5 and 10%.

Equities have been resilient to tapering and omicron risks, with the S&P 500 surging to a record high on Friday. With bond yields remaining low, investors continue to see stocks as the main vehicle of returns. But after this year’s rally, expectations for next year’s gains are muted, with the Deutsche Bank AG survey showing fund managers on average forecasting just a 4.2% gain for U.S. equities in 2022.

Now that the omicron’s risk to growth has come down, Morgan Stanley strategists point to the U.S. Federal Reserve’s likely “much faster” tapering compared to 2014 as one of the key risks for stocks.

Goldman and Morgan Stanley agree that stock picking will become more important in 2022, as the post-pandemic rebound that almost indiscriminately pushed equities higher fizzles.

“Stock picking will be difficult but a necessary condition to generate meaningful returns in 2022 as the market separates the winners and losers and index basically goes nowhere over the next 12 months,” Morgan Stanley said in its note to clients.

Goldman Sachs recommends a more “eclectic” approach next year, with a focus on “improving value coupled with profitable and cash generative growth companies.”

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