Text size

The case for US equities after a record quarter

Listen to article

This is a sponsored article from J.P. Morgan Asset Management.

Positive earnings beat, a soft-landing outcome and the potential for Fed easing later this year could present significant tailwinds for US stocks. Nevertheless, we believe it is important to stay mindful of the downside risks. An active approach could be useful to tap into higher-quality opportunities amid wide intra-sector valuation and performance dispersion while managing the risks.

The outlook for US stocks remains constructive…

US stocks recorded a strong first quarter, with the S&P 500 index registering price gains of over 10% and notching 22 record highs in the span of three months1 (as of 31.03.2024).

For investors who had stayed on the sidelines, many could be wondering if they had missed an attractive opportunity. Meanwhile, others may question if the rally is sustainable.

In our view, US stocks are in a sweet spot for three key reasons.

1. History suggests strength begets more strength

First, historical data suggests no clear advantage or disadvantage of investing in US stocks at record highs relative to any other time. Over the last 50+ years since 1970, the average 12-month price return of the S&P 500 index after reaching an all-time high was 9.1%, while the average price return from investing all other days was 8.7%2.

Historically, investing at all-time highs has not meaningfully impacted longer-term returns.

Source: Haver Analytics, J.P. Morgan Asset Management. Data as of 06.02.2024.

2. Macro tailwinds from a soft landing and potential policy easing

Second, the outlook of the US economy remains constructive. Despite fears of a hard landing amid restrictive interest rates and a short-lived regional banking crisis, the US economy still expanded by more than 3% in the fourth quarter of 20233. Crucially, the US consumer remained resilient, supported by record-low unemployment and higher real wage growth as inflation cooled. The wealth effect from rising asset prices, such as equities and housing, could continue to support actual consumer spending as wealthier consumers tend to save less and spend more. With consumption accounting for around 70% of the US gross domestic product (GDP)4, a resilient consumer presents a solid foundation for continued economic expansion, albeit slower than last year.

US consumers have remained resilient, supported by a low unemployment rate, a tight labour market and rising wages

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED), J.P. Morgan Asset Management. Data as of 31.03.2024. Wage growth is calculated from the wages of private production and non-supervisory workers, seasonally adjusted. Private production and non-supervisory jobs represent just over 80% of total non-farm jobs.

More importantly, a potential monetary policy pivot later in the year could provide some additional tailwind. As the recent Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting in March showed, the median FOMC member maintains a somewhat dovish bias, projecting around three rate cuts this year based on the dot plot, although policymakers had trimmed rate cut projections in 20255.

A soft-landing outcome coupled with the potential for some monetary easing later this year could present a constructive backdrop for US equities. Indeed, historical data bears this out. In the 44 years since 1980, there were 14 non-recession years when the Fed had cut interest rates at least once2. Price returns for the S&P 500 index were positive for 13 of those 14 years – or 93% of the time – with an average price gain of 15.6%2.

3. Earnings paint a positive picture

Third, earnings for US companies continue to paint a relatively optimistic picture. The S&P 500 index is expected to record earnings-per-share growth of around 11%6 this year, a clear acceleration from 2023’s more muted performance. Ebbing recession risk, moderating inflation and potential Fed easing could buoy earnings growth and, by extension, broader equity returns.

Following a narrow-breadth rally in 2023, where the largest tech stocks had dominated returns on the back of optimism about generative artificial intelligence (AI), earnings growth could broaden out to include other constituents within the index. A broader and more inclusive rally that covers a meaningful share of companies beyond just the largest tech names could lead to healthier and more sustainable gains for US stocks.

Earnings continue to paint a positive picture, with market consensus expecting double-digit growth in 2024 and 2025

Source: Compustat, FactSet, Standard & Poor’s, J.P. Morgan Asset Management. Data as of 31.03.2024. Historical EPS levels are based on annual pro-forma earnings per share. 2024F and 2025F EPS growth are based on consensus analyst estimates for each calendar year. F: Forecast. Past performance is not indicative of future returns. Forecasts/ Estimates may or may not come to pass.

In sum, these factors present a constructive backdrop for US equities.

Nevertheless, investors should still bear in mind the downside risks presented by a slowing global economy, a presidential election cycle, elevated geopolitical and supply chain risks, moderating but stickier inflation and the lagged economic impact of prolonged restrictive interest rates. These factors could trigger periodic bouts of volatility in equity markets. This underscores the need to stay selective and discerning, and focus on quality assets with sound fundamentals.

A rigorous, bottom-up stock selection approach could be useful for separating the wheat from the chaff. Position sizing and active allocation will also matter to optimise longer-term outcomes as investment prospects can change quickly in fast-moving markets.

For more thought leadership pieces from J.P. Morgan Asset Management, please click here.

As of May 2024. This information is based on current market conditions, subject to change from time to time without prior notice. Provided to illustrate macro and asset class trends, not to be construed as research or investment advice. Investments are not similar or comparable to deposits. Investors should make independent evaluation and seek financial advice. Risk management does not imply elimination of risks. Forecasts/ Estimates may or may not come to pass.

Diversification does not guarantee investment return and does not eliminate the risk of loss. Yield is not guaranteed. Positive yield does not imply positive return.

1. Source: Bloomberg, J.P. Morgan Asset Management. Data as of 31.03.2024.
2. Source: J.P. Morgan Asset Management. “Should investors be bullish or bearish on US equities?” Published 09.02.2024.
3. Source: US Bureau of Economic Analysis, J.P. Morgan Asset Management. Data as of 31.01.2024.
4. Source: US Bureau of Economic Analysis, FactSet, J.P. Morgan Asset Management. “Guide to the Markets (US) 2Q 2024”. Data as of 31.03.2024.
5. Source: Federal Reserve. “Summary of Economic Projections”. Published 20.03.2024.
6. Source: Compustat, FactSet, Standard & Poor’s, J.P. Morgan Asset Management. Data as of 31.03.2024. Historical EPS levels are based on annual pro-forma earnings per share. 2024F and 2025F EPS growth are based on consensus analyst estimates for each calendar year. F: Forecast. Past performance is not indicative of future returns. Forecasts/ Estimates may or may not come to pass.

Important Information
The views contained herein are not to be taken as advice or a recommendation to buy or sell any investment in any jurisdiction, nor is it a commitment from J.P. Morgan Asset Management or any of its subsidiaries to participate in any of the transactions mentioned herein. Any forecasts, figures, opinions or investment techniques and strategies set out are for information purposes only, based on certain assumptions and current market conditions and are subject to change without prior notice. All information presented herein is considered to be accurate at the time of production. This material does not contain sufficient information to support an investment decision and it should not be relied upon by you in evaluating the merits of investing in any securities or products. In addition, users should make an independent assessment of the legal, regulatory, tax, credit and accounting implications and determine, together with their own financial professional, if any investment mentioned herein is believed to be appropriate to their personal goals. Investors should ensure that they obtain all available relevant information before making any investment. It should be noted that investment involves risks, the value of investments and the income from them may fluctuate in accordance with market conditions and taxation agreements and investors may not get back the full amount invested. Both past performance and yields are not reliable indicators of current and future results.

J.P. Morgan Asset Management is the brand for the asset management business of JPMorgan Chase & Co. and its affiliates worldwide.

To the extent permitted by applicable law, we may record telephone calls and monitor electronic communications to comply with our legal and regulatory obligations and internal policies. Personal data will be collected, stored and processed by J.P. Morgan Asset Management in accordance with our privacy policies at https://am.jpmorgan.com/global/privacy.

This communication is issued by the following entities:
In Asia Pacific (“APAC”), by the following issuing entities and in the respective jurisdictions in which they are primarily regulated: JPMorgan Asset Management (Asia Pacific) Limited, or JPMorgan Funds (Asia) Limited, or JPMorgan Asset Management Real Assets (Asia) Limited, each of which is regulated by the Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong; JPMorgan Asset Management (Singapore) Limited (Co. Reg. No. 197601586K), this advertisement or publication has not been reviewed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore; in Australia, to wholesale clients only as defined in section 761A and 761G of the Corporations Act 2001 (Commonwealth), by JPMorgan Asset Management (Australia) Limited (ABN 55143832080) (AFSL 376919). For all other markets in APAC, to intended recipients only.

Copyright 2024 JPMorgan Chase & Co. All rights reserved.

Material ID: 09q7241804045926

This is a sponsored article from J.P. Morgan Asset Management.

Related Tags