UBS cuts year-end S&P 500 forecast, recommends stocks that can do well in ‘uncertain road ahead’

UBS cut its year-end S & P 500 forecast on concern that earnings will fall short of expectations as the Federal Reserve tightens rates and the economy teeters on a recession. “Without growth improving or financial conditions easing into YE (our baseline), all eyes will be on earnings,” Keith Parker, head of global equity strategy at UBS, wrote in a note Tuesday. “We revise down our ’22 and ’23 S & P 500 EPS forecasts to $228 and $235 respectively, on a smaller Q2 beat than we forecast, lowered GDP forecasts and a 1.2% tax hit.” Parker lowered his 2022 S & P 500 forecast to 4,000 from 4,150. The new target still implies about a 2% gain from current levels. The strategist thinks the market may stagnate over the long term as he revised lower his 2023 year-end target to 4,200 from 4,440 previously, citing below-trend GDP growth. How to play it As far as industry picks, UBS favors communication services and health care stocks “in a baseline of slow growth, falling inflation but heightened uncertainty.” For individual stock picks, the firm ran a series of screens for “the uncertain road ahead.” One of its main recommendations is to buy stocks that will grow their dividends, since payouts may take on greater importance in an environment of slowing earnings growth. UBS found a number of stocks that its model predicts will increase dividends over the next six months. The companies also have a minimum 1.5% dividend yield and are repurchasing their stock. Here are some of the stocks that made the list. The second main stock strategy from UBS for the uncertain world is to buy stocks with high and improving quality. The firm’s screen used the UBS Quant team’s quality factor ranking to evaluate a company’s balance sheet, along with looking for names with strong free cash flow and sales growth. Alphabet , Ulta Beauty , Coca-Cola , Exxon Mobil and US Bancorp are among the names that make that list. ConocoPhillips also makes this quality screen along with the dividend screen above. Despite his tepid view, Parker believes there’s a chance for a near-term rally in the S & P 500 if next week’s consumer price index reading for August is “tepid.”

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