Benjamin Graham, if he were alive today, or even an investor from 2019, might struggle to comprehend the bull market we witnessed in SPACs, crypto, stonks and NFTs. A year ago, investors were buying monkey jpegs for millions of dollars or profitless tech companies promising jam tomorrow. This extraordinary period was a bull market in the willingness to believe. But exposing the truth has drawn a tear.
Has the 2022 bear market ended? It is unclear even for most market forecasters. The spread of 2023 consensus earnings estimates is historically wide.
Consensus Earnings Estimates Are Historically Wide
Whether the 2022 bear market is ending may seem a fruitless question. Most market forecasters got 2022 wrong. Even today, 2023 consensus earnings estimates vary widely from high single digits to negative 15%. Added to that are the market historians who point to various pervious market downturns over the last century to support their views. Which collectively suggest that the likelihood of 2023 being a down year is low. But what is the reality. Will stocks bounce back in 2023?
The answer is not so simple. It hangs on a multitude of conditional expectations which make prediction difficult and path depemdent. In particular, the path for inflation and rates. Both of which will impact growth and realisable corporate profitability.
Adding to the complexity are the causes and solutions to the current inflation mix, with both commodity inflation and wage inflation being the most tenacious to tame. If monetary policy fails to bring inflation down without a disproportionate decrease in growth, even the current depressed multiples may prevent a stock bounce back in 2023.
In the meantime, the smart money seems to have a preference to ride out 1Q23 with a portfolio tilted towards the quality, dividends and credit.
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