Goldman Sachs lifts S&P 500 price target to 4,500 as index enters bull market

The bulls on Wall Street have another running mate. Goldman Sachs has joined the growing list of market strategists who have boosted their year-end S&P 500 (^GSPC) targets.

David Kostin and the equity strategy team at Goldman Sachs increased their year-end target to 4,500 from 4,000, driven by a new “soft landing” forecast and higher-than-expected earnings.

“The P/E multiple of 19x is greater than we expected, led by a few mega cap stocks,” the firm writes. “But prior episodes of sharply narrowing breadth have been followed by a ‘catch-up’ from a broader valuation re-rating. The potential profit boost from AI has expanded the right tail for equities, while left tail risks from recession and hawkish Fed policy remain.”

The S&P 500 officially entered bull market territory last week, and history shows stocks often increase at an outsized pace over the next 12 months after the start of a bull market. Other strategists are betting history repeats itself, too, with Bank of America, BMO, RBC, and Truist all raising their expectations for the S&P 500 in recent weeks.

Artificial intelligence has been a key driver behind stocks’ rally to star the year, and Goldman believes the potential upside for the disruptive technology isn’t priced into the S&P 500 yet.

But part of the S&P target update also stems from stocks that aren’t big AI winners. Market breadth, meaning how widespread the current rally is, stands at its narrowest levels since the tech bubble in 2000, per Goldman. In comparable periods dating back to the 1980s, that’s meant sideways market action and larger than average drawdowns. But good news usually follows those time periods.

“Eventually, however, a ‘catch up’ has been most common, with S&P 500 valuations and prices increasing alongside a reversal of intra-market momentum,” Kostin and his team wrote.

A Goldman Sachs chart shows how a few companies have led the major indexes higher in 2023.

Stronger-than-expected economic data has both economists and market strategists projecting a rosier end to 2023 than initially anticipated. Last week, Goldman’s team cut the likelihood of a 2023 recession from 35% to 25%, while Wells Fargo is now expecting a recession as early as the first quarter of 2024.

The upbeat economic forecast will push earnings growth to the upside, Goldman’s strategy team argues. Goldman now sees full-year S&P 500 earnings per share at $224, above the $206 the Street expects.

“We continue to believe that the worst of the negative revision cycle is behind us, and the trajectory of analyst earnings estimates has indeed improved in recent weeks,” Kostin wrote.

This week could prove pivotal to many market strategists’ bullish calls, though. Tuesday morning will bring investors the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for May, a release that will come just hours before the start of the Federal Reserve’s two-day Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting which culminates with Wednesday afternoon’s policy announcement.

The Fed is expected to pause its interest rate hike campaign after hiking rates for the last 10 meetings. But a strong inflation report could alter the Fed’s path and make the route to Goldman’s call tougher.

“The major downside risks to our S&P 500 outlook include an unexpected downturn in growth and stubborn inflation that triggers a hawkish Fed pivot,” Goldman wrote.

Goldman’s team raised their year-end target to 4,500 from 4,000, citing new forecasts for a “soft landing” for the US economy and earnings that come in at $224 per share for the index, above the $206 the Street is expecting companies to earn this year. (Photo by Costfoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Josh is a reporter for Yahoo Finance.

Click here for the latest stock market news and in-depth analysis, including events that move stocks

Read the latest financial and business news from Yahoo Finance