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3 Bold Stock Market Predictions for 2024

‘Tis the season for bold stock market predictions for the year ahead. It’s a fool’s errand. But in the holiday spirit of giving, here’s what my “crystal ball” says for 2024.

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On the surface, 2023 was a banner year for stocks. But in reality, it’s been a banner couple months.

Through the first 10 months of 2023, market malaise took deep root. Sure, we technically entered a new bull market in May, but as has been written and said ad nauseam, the Magnificent Seven (AAPL, AMZN, GOOG, META, MSFT, NVDA, TSLA) were doing all the heavy lifting, and if you didn’t own any of those stocks, odds are you weren’t making money. Look no further than the S&P 500 Equal Weight Index (SPXEW) for proof – through the end of October, it was down for the year. On the heels of a true bear market in 2022, investors were on the cusp of two consecutive lost years.

Then the calendar flipped to November.

Since then, here’s what’s happened…

-The S&P Equal Weight Index is up 14.7%

-The S&P, Dow and Nasdaq are at new 2023 highs, and knocking on the door of new all-time highs

-More stocks reached 52-week highs than at any point since early, pre-pandemic 2020.

What changed? The Fed changed. After nearly two years of hiking short-term interest rates from near zero to the current 5.25% - 5.5% range in an effort to fully extinguish the flames of inflation after it reached a four-decade high in summer 2022, Jerome Powell and company have now thrown on the brakes, and are signaling potential rate cuts next year, perhaps as early as March.

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And Wall Street loves the newly dovish Fed – plus the fact that there’s no long-feared recession in sight, with a so-called “soft landing” now seeming like a real possibility and not some fantasy cooked up in a Disney writers’ room. Within about six or seven weeks, investor sentiment has flipped from bleak and borderline nihilistic to euphoric.

So what does that mean for 2024? Here at Cabot, we generally shy away from stock market predictions. “My crystal ball is broken” is a very commonly used pet phrase among Cabot analysts. Making bold market predictions is a fool’s errand and, since seemingly every pundit out there makes them, is a practice that should generally be avoided…

(pauses for effect….)

But where’s the fun in that?! It’s the holiday season – why not get in the giving spirit by sharing a few educated guesses about what the year ahead has in store for investors? What could go wrong?

Here are three fearless stock market predictions for 2024 … all of which I’d take with an entire spoonful of salt.

2024 Stock Market Prediction #1: The S&P Will Be Up Double Digits Again

With the looming specter of the Fed no longer lingering like a dark cloud over the market – if anything, Jerome Powell and company may be a catalyst for good next year – investors are more emboldened to buy stocks than they have been in the last two years. According to Bank of America, this Tuesday saw the largest equity inflows into stocks and ETFs ($6.4 billion net) since October 2022, when this bull market technically got underway. But as I mentioned, the first year of that rally was almost entirely fueled by the Magnificent Seven; the rally only broadened to many of the 493 other large-cap stocks that comprise the S&P 500 in the last two months.

Yes, things feel a bit frothy right now, but as my colleague Mike Cintolo – a well-versed market historian and award-winning market timer – likes to remind his readers, stocks are often most overbought at the start of a new rally. In reality, this rally is just getting started. There are sure to be speed bumps and perhaps even potholes in the year ahead, but conditions are ripe for another 10%-plus gain for the benchmark U.S. index next year.

2024 Stock Market Prediction #2: Chinese Stocks Will Outperform U.S. Stocks

While I’m predicting a 10-12% gain in U.S. stocks next year, I think Chinese stocks will fare even better. China has had a bumpy year, as its emergence from draconian zero-Covid lockdown measures hasn’t been the overnight stimulant to the Chinese economy that many expected. Instead, the recovery has been slow. And yet, it’s still growing faster than the U.S. economy, with 5.2% GDP growth through the first nine months of 2023, up from 3% in full-year 2022. It’s expected to slow to 4.2% in 2024 – more than double U.S. forecasts. Granted, that’s a far cry from the 7%-plus GDP growth China was accustomed to in the 2010s, but that was never sustainable.

Meanwhile, Chinese stocks remain in the dumps: The Shanghai Stock Exchange is down 6% year to date and is 22% off its late-2021 peak. Chinese stocks trade at less than 12 times earnings. That’s good value. It’s why I picked China’s burgeoning electric vehicle behemoth BYD, Inc. (BYDDY) as my favorite stock for 2024 despite a lackluster 2023 (+6.5%) and an awful final five months of the year (-27% since July 31). There’s nothing wrong with the company; investors simply haven’t bought into China’s economic revival yet. They will soon, as more positive data demonstrating China’s recovery is released, and perhaps more importantly, the narrative of the country’s slower-than-expected recovery fades.

There are plenty of Chinese stocks besides BYDDY that trade on U.S. exchanges (upstart e-commerce company Pinduoduo (PDD) has been a rare Chinese stalwart this year). And right now, they’re trading at a major discount.

2024 Stock Market Prediction #3: Bitcoin Will Hit New Highs – and Then Crash Again

Let me say this up front: I’m not a big believer in Bitcoin. It has no real-world utility – folks aren’t buying groceries or pumping gas with Bitcoin – and it tends to come crashing back to earth every time it becomes mainstream enough that your newbie-investor friends start asking you about it. And that will surely happen again. But not until Bitcoin prices hit new highs.

That’s been the pattern: When stocks rise, Bitcoin accelerates even faster as a byproduct of increased investor appetites. It’s purely a bull market product, and as noted earlier, we are now fully in a bull market – and likely still in the early stages. Bitcoin prices have already more than doubled this year, up 163% to top 44,000 as of this writing. It would take another 48% run-up for bitcoin to eclipse its late-2021 highs above 65,000. I think it’ll get there, perhaps in the first half of the year. But as soon as the market starts showing weakness again, Bitcoin prices will likely make yet another hasty retreat.

So, if you’re a trader, you could probably buy Bitcoin now even near 52-week highs and make a tidy profit the first half of the year. But for long-term investors, Bitcoin is not – and may never be – a viable buy-and-hold play.

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Chris Preston is Cabot Wealth Network’s Vice President of Content and Chief Analyst of Cabot Stock of the Week.