Breakout

The Next 100 Points: When Will S&P 500 Return to Record Highs?

Breakout

If the stock market keeps a checklist of its New Year's resolutions, then it just scratched ''break though 1475" off the list. But just like the quintessential weight-loss goal so many people strive for, the real test for stocks will be maintaining the level and advancing on it.

In the case of the S&P 500, the next stop is 1576 — the record-high hit back in October of 2007 A.D. or a mere 6.5% away.

"I think we will [get there], but I don't think it will be straight up," says Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott, in the attached video. "Given the level of acrimony that exists in Congress today, I don't have high hopes that we're going to go through these next two months linearly."

If nothing else, the Thursday breakout rally proved once again that stock investors (perversely) prefer to chase higher and higher prices. Contrary to almost every other financial transaction in the world, the heaviest volume of the day came at the most expensive time rather than the cheapest, but that's just how it works on Wall Street.

Ultimately, this mid-January peak could prove to be slightly early since the real fiscal fighting won't kick in for another month. That said, investors must remember that the path to the new peak began in September, troughed 10% through November, then rallied 10% since the week before Thanksgiving, despite increasing concern about the fiscal cliff. If you just hung on for the ride, congratulations. But if you tried to time it (like most pros), you're now playing catch-up once again. And that is why new highs beget new buys.

"Ultimately the underpinnings for fundamentals here in the U.S. remain relatively sturdy, if not continuing to improve," Luschini says in outlining his case for higher stocks. Generally he lists Financials, Energy, Tech and Health Care as his favorite sectors right now. Specifically, he is happier with regional banks than big global diversified lenders and prefers their exposure to housing, job growth and regulation.

At the same time, Luschini is touting the hybrid nature of the medical device makers, which he says "have an element of cyclicality to them" and compare well to more traditional sector stalwarts such as big pharmaceuticals.

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