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Top Wall St. strategist bucks trend, says stocks are going down in 2019

One of Wall Street’s top strategists thinks the stock market is going down in 2019.

Savita Subramanian, Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s chief U.S. equity strategist, foresees a 2018 year-end target of 3,000 on the S&P 500 (^GSPC). But for year-end 2019, she expects the S&P 500 to drop to 2,900.

“Still-supportive fundamentals, still-tepid equity sentiment and more reasonable valuations keep us positive. But in 2019, we see elevated likelihood of a peak in the S&P 500,” Subramanian wrote in a note. “Assuming the market peaks somewhere at or above 3000, our forecast is for modest downside in 2019.

She added that her forecast for 2019 EPS is for $170, representing growth of 5%.

A trader looks up at charts on his screen just before the end of trading for the day on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, November 18, 2013. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (UNITED STATES – Tags: BUSINESS)

Subramanian’s equity outlook diverges from the consensus Wall Street view, which is broadly for equity growth into the end of 2019. Credit Suisse, for its part, recently delivered a bullish outlook of 3,350 for the S&P 500 at year-end 2019, which is projected to follow a close at 3,000 in 2018.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the S&P 500 stood at 2,646.29 points, down more than 1% for the year.

UBS analysts said that the S&P 500’s weakness this year will pave the way for bigger gains in 2019. The firm’s base case is for a 2019 S&P 500 target of 3,200.

Other major firms have posted their own, more bullish outlooks for base-case stock market performance for the year-end of 2019:

  • Goldman Sachs: S&P 500 closes at 2,850 in 2018; increases to 3,000 at the end of 2019.
  • UBS: S&P 500 closes at 2,875 in 2018; increases to 3,200 at the end of 2019.
  • BMO Capital Markets: S&P 500 closes at 2,950 in 2018; increases to 3,150 at the end of 2019.
  • Credit Suisse: S&P 500 closes at 3,000 in 2018; increases to 3,350 at the end of 2019.
  • Citi: S&P 500 closes at 2,800; increases to 3,100 at the end of 2019.
  • Barclays: S&P 500 closes at 3,000; stays flat at 3,000 at the end of 2019.

Subramanian’s bearish outlook is based on the flurry of “wildcards” that have recently dominated the macroeconomic landscape, including concerns of trade, geopolitics, a widening federal deficit, increased Federal Reserve tightening and an upward bias for volatility in equity markets. Additional harbingers include the peak in homebuilders about a year ago – which tends to lead equities by about two years – and Bank of America’s projected widening in credit spreads in 2019, which have also historically flashed a warning sign to risk assets including stocks.

“Cash is now competitive and will likely grow more so. Cash yields today are higher than dividend yields for 60% of the S&P 500 today, and our Fed call puts short rates close to 3.5% by the end of 2019, well above the S&P 500’s 1.9% dividend yield,” Subramanian said. “We suspect that we see a peak in equities next year, but bearish positioning and weak sentiment in stocks present upside, especially if trade risks subside, keeping us constructive for now.”

Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @emily_mcck

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