U.S. stocks to keep climbing in 2020 but growth well below this year's: Reuters poll

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By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. stocks will keep rising in 2020 but at a much more modest pace than this year, with plenty to potentially slow the ascent, according to a Reuters poll of strategists.

The benchmark S&P 500 index () will finish 2020 at 3,260, roughly 4% above its close on Monday of 3,133.64, based on the median forecast of 52 strategists polled by Reuters in the last two weeks.

So far this year, the S&P 500 is up about 25%.

“It’s going to be a good year, but not a great one,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA in New York. He sees the S&P 500 ending next year at around 3,380.

Most – 15 out of 21 respondents – said they expected the bull market would extend into 2020 and run for at least a year.

Stocks will benefit from more stable global growth, accommodative central banks and a better-than-expected recovery in U.S. earnings, strategists said.

“Comparisons are going to be easier next year” for earnings, said Brian Belski, chief investment strategist at BMO Capital Markets in New York. “Everyone is so focused on near-term earnings and how they’re negative. That’s not the way to look at it.”

Belski expects the S&P 500 to end next year at 3,400.

Following 2018’s sharp, tax-cut fueled gains, S&P 500 companies are expected to increase earnings overall by just 1.1% in 2019. Growth is forecast at 10% for 2020, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Still, a majority of respondents said there is more of a risk the market falls short of their S&P 500 index targets than surpasses them.

Among the biggest uncertainties for the market will be the drawn-out trade war between the United States and China, which stands to further hurt global growth, and the 2020 U.S. presidential election, strategists said.

Slower-than-expected global growth poses the biggest risk to the bull market, said Stovall.

Almost all respondents said the market would see further upside in the event of a partial trade deal, with some seeing the potential gains as significant.

The S&P 500 index is already trading above the poll’s end-2019 median target of 3,100, but if it finishes at that level, the end-2020 forecast would represent a 5.2% annual gain.

The poll also showed the Dow Jones industrial average () finishing 2020 at 29,400, based on a median forecast of 27 strategists. That is up about 4.8% from Monday’s close of 28,066.47.

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