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Veteran strategist is betting the market will avoid a recession—and rally a whopping 40% by year-end

June 22, 2022, 11:32 AM UTC

Pessimism abounds in global markets these days, with economists, executives, banks, world banks, central banks, and celebrities all predicting a looming recession. But one major strategist is staying stridently optimistic.

Oppenheimer & Co. chief investment strategist John Stoltzfus is sticking to his original forecast, with the market not only avoiding a recession but rising 40% from where it currently stands to 5,330 by the end of 2022.  

“We don’t think there’s going to be a recession; we do think we might skirt it,” Stoltzfus told Bloomberg in an interview, adding, “It’s not an easy time, but we think this Fed is very capable of dealing with it because of experience dealing with the Great Financial Crisis.”

The biggest worry currently roiling markets is the soaring inflation brought on by the war in Ukraine and COVID-19 supply disruptions. With the consumer price index at 40-year highs, the Fed has increased interest rates at a record rate, shocking the market and sending the S&P index down 21% for the year. But Stoltzfus argues the Fed knows what it’s doing. It will be able to “check the pace of inflation,” he says, and supply chains will loosen up.

Stoltzfus’s optimism shouldn’t be dismissed. Market watchers like Nobel laureate and Yale professor Robert Shiller believe that fear of a recession can become a “self-fulfilling” prophecy when consumers, investors, and companies slow down their spending to prepare for the worst—meaning that the more bullish sentiment there is, the more the world might be able to avoid a recession. Stoltzfus’s optimism also mirrors the sentiments of other Wall Street strategists, like David Roche, who say this is a moment to realize that “things do turn around.”

Stoltzfus has been right on the money before. His prediction for his year-end target for S&P 500 for 2021 was 4,700, according to CNBC’s Market Strategist Survey, which was just below the 4,776 the S&P index posted on Dec. 31, 2021.

Mirroring ’08

Stolzfus has the highest S&P 500 target for 2022 in CNBC’s Market Strategist Survey. The average target was 4,684 across all 15 strategists surveyed—a 24% rise from where the S&P stood at 3,764.79 at the end of trading Tuesday. Bank of America Merrill Lynch strategist Savita Subramanian, Barclay’s Maneesh Deshpande, Citi’s Scott Chronert, Deutsche Bank’s Binky Chadha, and RBC’s Lori Calvasina all predict a target between 4,500 and 4,700, while the most pessimistic prediction came from Morgan Stanley’s strategist Mike Wilson at 3,900.

Stolzfus bases his predictions on market movements during the 2008 financial crisis.  

“The most dramatic point that I’d like to make is that, from Dec. 31, 2008, through March 2009, the S&P 500 dropped 25% on expectations that the Federal Reserve would fail in its efforts to get the economy back on track,” Stoltzfus said. “Instead, what happened was the market rallied 64% from March 9th through the end of the year.”

From the end of 2008 until Mar. 9, 2009, the S&P 500 dropped from 903 to 677 and then rose back above the 900 mark by May 2009.

“If we can get half of that as a rally, we would be close to our 5,330 target,” Stoltzfus said.

For all his optimism, Stoltzfus advises proceeding with caution. “We’re not out of the woods yet, but we think we’re walking in the right direction. And we think the light at the end of the tunnel is not the headlamp of a locomotive but rather it’s sunlight,” he poetically says.

Stoltzfus said he will reassess his target depending on market volatility over the course of the next few days.

But if his latest optimism in the market is any indication, Stoltzfus will keep his target. Stocks rebounded after the Juneteenth long weekend, with the S&P 500 posting its best day in three weeks.

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