The stock market had a tumultuous year in 2022, with high inflation, rising interest rates, and recession fears causing increased volatility. As investors look ahead to 2024, the big question is – where will the major market indexes like the S&P 500 and Dow end up by year’s end?
In this comprehensive guide, we analyze expert predictions to provide an in-depth stock market outlook and forecast for 2024.
After hitting record highs in early 2022, the S&P 500 fell into a bear market over the summer as the Federal Reserve aggressively hiked interest rates to combat surging inflation. This resulted in the worst year for stocks since 2008.
Heading into 2023, there are cautious signs of optimism, with inflation showing early signs of peaking. However, challenges remain, including the threat of recession, ongoing geopolitical tensions, and further Fed tightening.
Most experts expect continued volatility in 2023 but see potential for stocks to recover lost ground by the end of the year. As we look further ahead to 2024, market forecasts become more divided. Understanding the key factors driving expert predictions can provide valuable insight for investors planning portfolio strategy.
This guide analyzes the latest S&P 500 and Dow Jones forecasts from top investment banks, asset managers, economists, and market strategists. We break down the rationale behind bullish and bearish outlooks to assess the most likely scenario for 2024.
Key Factors Driving 2024 Market Predictions
Experts weigh a number of critical variables when forecasting future market performance. The major factors influencing 2024 projections include:
- Inflation outlook – Whether inflation continues to cool or reignites will significantly impact Fed policy and growth.
- Recession risk – The potential timing and severity of an anticipated recession is a key consideration.
- Corporate earnings – Profit growth expectations play a major role in valuation forecasts.
- Fed policy – The path of rate hikes and balance sheet reduction impacts markets and the economy.
- Geopolitical turmoil – Events like the Russia-Ukraine war add to uncertainty and volatility.
- Valuation – Factoring in metrics like the price-to-earnings ratio relative to history.
The interplay between these forces will determine where major indexes finish up in 2024.
S&P 500 Price Targets for 2024
The S&P 500 is the most widely followed US stock market benchmark. Here are the latest published year-end 2024 price targets for the index:
|Firm||2024 S&P 500 Target||Forecast Gain/Loss|
|Bank of America||4,500 – 4,900||+2% to +11%|
|BofA Global Research||4,600||+5%|
Current S&P 500 Level: 4,419 (as of January 2023)
The average of the major bank targets points to a modest gain of around 2% for the S&P 500 in 2024, with the index finishing near 4,450. However, individual predictions range from Barclays’ bear case of a 9% drop to Bank of America’s bullish outlook of an 11% rally.
Driving the disparity are differing views on critical variables like Fed policy, earnings growth, inflation, and recession risk. Let’s analyze the rationale behind the varying predictions.
Bull Case – S&P 500 Rallies Over 10%
The most bullish outlook of +11% sees a drop in inflation allowing the Fed to cut interest rates in late 2023. This supports an economic rebound and strong profit growth in 2024. Accommodative policy and PE expansion take the S&P 500 over 4,900.
Upside risk factors include:
- Inflation falls back to 2% target, allowing Fed to pivot.
- Robust consumer and business spending after inflation peak.
- S&P earnings grow over 10% with limited recession impact.
- Stocks revalued higher as rates decline.
Base Case – S&P 500 Gains Modestly
The base case view sees the S&P 500 rising modestly in the 2-5% range. This outlook expects a mild recession but sees inflation coming down, allowing the Fed to pause rate hikes. Earnings grow modestly as the economy recovers.
Key assumptions include:
- Inflation slows toward 3%, Fed pauses hikes.
- Shallow recession in H1 2023.
- Earnings grow around 5% following 2023 dip.
- Valuations steady with lower rates.
Bear Case – S&P 500 Declines Up to 9%
The most bearish forecast sees the S&P 500 falling around 9% by end-2024. This is driven by expectations for a deeper recession as the Fed keeps rates higher for longer to tame stubborn inflation. Valuations contract with higher risk-free rates.
- Surging inflation forces Fed to hike rates above 5%.
- Severe recession with significant earnings decline.
- Higher for longer rates pressure valuations.
- Geopolitical tensions; trade war risks.
Balancing the upside potential against downside risks, the base case of a modest single-digit gain seems the most probable outcome. But with so many variables at play, volatility is likely to remain high.
Dow Jones Forecast & Targets for 2024
Along with the S&P 500, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is one of the most widely tracked stock benchmarks. Here are recent Dow price targets published by major banks for year-end 2024:
|Firm||2024 Dow Target||Forecast Gain/Loss|
|BofA Global Research||37,400||+6%|
Current Dow Level: 35,241 (as of January 2023)
The average Dow forecast points to a slight gain to around 36,000 by end of 2024, representing upside of about 2%. The most bullish outlook sees a 6% rally to above 37,000, while the most bearish call is for a 5% drop to 33,000.
The same factors driving S&P 500 projections are influencing Dow targets. The industrial focus of the Dow index makes it a bit more economically sensitive. But the outlook remains similar – base case is modest gains barring a severe recession, with risks skewed to the upside if inflation moderates faster than expected.
Expert Predictions for 2024 from Banks
Leading investment banks closely follow macro trends, policy shifts, and market fundamentals to inform their outlooks. Here is a sampling of their latest published predictions:
- Sees S&P 500 at 4,700 by year-end 2024, around +6% gain from current levels.
- Expects inflation to fall to 3% by mid-2023, allowing the Fed to cut rates in 2024.
- Forecasts above-trend U.S. GDP growth in 2024, fueled by robust consumer and capex spending.
- Believes any recession will be mild given strong household and corporate health.
- Forecasts the S&P 500 finishing 2024 at 4,400, around unchanged from today.
- Expects a recession in late 2023/early 2024 but for it to be shallow and brief.
- Sees inflation falling to 3% by end of 2023, pausing Fed hikes.
- Assumes no major change in valuations amid steady rates.
- Projects the S&P 500 rallying to 4,500 by year-end 2024, a modest +2% gain.
- Notes risks are skewed to the upside if inflation falls faster, allowing Fed to cut rates.
- Base case is for shallow recession early 2023 but recovery in late 2023.
- Earnings growth forecast in 2024 supports modest upside for stocks.
- Forecasts S&P 500 rising to 4,575 in 2024, a +4% upside.
- Sees inflation back at 2% by end-2023 without Fed needing to hike above 5%.
- Expects narrow recession early 2023 but rebound strongest late 2023/2024.
- Notes potential PE expansion if inflation/policy outlook improves faster.
- Projects S&P 500 finishing 2024 at 4,500, a +2% gain.
- Look for one more 50 bps Fed hike then a pause as inflation falls to 2.5%-3%.
- Expect mild recession early 2023 and 5% EPS growth in 2024.
- See risks of prolonged high inflation leading to lower 2024 forecast.
- Forecasts S&P 500 dropping to 4,050 by end of 2024, a -8% decline.
- Sees persistent inflation forcing Fed Funds rate above 5% into 2024.
- Notes rising odds of severe global recession with collapsing profits.
- Expects valuations to contract as risk-free rates remain elevated.
Asset Manager Forecasts
Large asset management firms also closely analyze macro and market trends to inform their outlooks. Here are forecasts from selected major asset managers:
- Forecasts S&P 500 finishing 2024 at 4,500, roughly unchanged from today.
- Expects recession in 2023 but for it to be mild given strong household finances.
- Sees Fed hiking to over 5% but pausing in H2 2023 as inflation falls.
- Looks for mid-single digit profit growth in 2024 to support slight market upside.
- Estimate the S&P 500 ends 2024 around 4,300, a slight -3% decline.
- Believe risks of higher for longer inflation/rates makes low single digit returns likely.
- See recession in 2023, earnings decline, then rebound in 2024.
- Expect extended volatility as markets weigh recession risks.
- Forecasts S&P 500 returns in 2024 in line with historical mid-single digits.
- Sees path dependent on inflation outlook – base of around 5% upside.
- Look for shallow recession in 2023, rebound in 2024.
- Expect market gyrations around Fed policy path and economic signals.
T. Rowe Price
- Estimate S&P 500 gains 4%-8% in 2024 as inflation moderates.
- See earnings growth around 6% in 2024 after modest 2023 recession impact.
- Expect volatility around Fed policy, inflation data, geopolitical risks.
- But believe fundamentals point to solid rebound by late 2023.
- Forecast S&P 500 range-bound in 2024 (+/-5%) barring better inflation outlook.
- Expect back-to-back mild recession quarters in 2023.
- See upside if inflation falls faster, allowing Fed flexibility by end of 2023.
- But prolonged inflation could extend volatility and limit gains.
The average asset manager forecast calls for flat to slightly positive S&P 500 returns in 2024, driven by expectations for a moderate recession and inflation moving toward target levels. But predictions diverge around risks of higher or lower inflation.
Economist & Strategist S&P 500 Predictions
Influential economists and market strategists also frequently publish forecasts based on their analyses of economic trends, policy, and valuations. Here is a cross-section of recent outlooks:
BofA Chief Investment Strategist
- Forecasts S&P 500 rising to 4,600 by end of 2024, a +5% gain.
- Expects inflation falling to 2.5% by end of 2023, allowing Fed flexibility.
- Sees recession in 2023 limited to only two quarters.
- Notes potential for higher forecast if inflation moderates faster to 2%.
Goldman Sachs Chief Economist
- Projects S&P 500 finishing 2024 around 4,300, slightly below current levels.
- Sees high likelihood of recession in 2023 with muted growth in 2024.
- Expects inflation falling but remaining above 3% into 2024.
- Assumes Fed funds rate staying above 4%, weighing on valuation.
Morgan Stanley Chief US Equity Strategist
- Estimates S&P 500 gain of 6%-10% in 2024 as earnings grow 7%-10%.
- Sees reduced inflation allowing Fed to cut rates in late 2023.
- Expects narrow recession early 2023, rebound by year-end.
- Forecasts PE expansion with inflation at 3% and lower rates.
BNP Paribas Chief US Economist
- Forecasts flat to slightly negative S&P 500 returns in 2024.
- Expects persistent inflation keeping Fed funds rate at 4%-4.5%.
- High likelihood of global recession in 2023 spilling into 2024.
- Sees limited earnings growth with policy headwinds.
Oxford Economics Lead US Economist
- Projects S&P 500 finishing 2024 around 4,050, an 8% decline.
- Expects stubborn inflation forcing Fed to hike toward 6%.
- Sees high chance of severe recession extending into 2024.
- Forecasts strong USD weighing on earnings as policy tightens.
The average strategist outlook points to muted single digit S&P 500 gains in 2024. But inflation is the critical wild card driving the wide optimism/pessimism divergence. Faster disinflation boosts upside potential, while persistent inflation raises downside risks.
What is the average 2024 year-end forecast for the S&P 500?
- The average of major published forecasts points to the S&P 500 ending 2024 around 4,450, representing upside of about +2% from current levels.
What is the most bullish S&P 500 prediction for 2024?
- The most bullish outlook sees the S&P 500 rallying over 10% to end 2024 above 4,900. This is predicated on inflation falling sharply, allowing the Fed to cut rates.
What is the most bearish S&P 500 forecast for 2024?
- The most negative prediction sees the S&P 500 dropping around 9% to finish 2024 near 4,000. This outlook is based on expectations for severe recession if inflation remains elevated.
What is the average Dow Jones forecast for 2024?
- The consensus among major banks calls for the Dow gaining around 2% to end 2024 near 36,000. The index currently sits around 35,000.
What are the biggest risks to the stock market outlook in 2024?
- The main downside risks are persistently high inflation forcing extended Fed tightening and triggering a deep recession. Prolonged geopolitical turmoil is another significant wildcard risk.
What factors could make 2024 returns exceed forecasts?
- Markets could outperform forecasts if inflation falls faster than expected, allowing the Fed to cut rates. Stronger than projected economic and profit growth would also boost upside.
The Bottom Line
While risks and uncertainties abound, the base outlook among top experts points to a scenario of continued volatility but modest S&P 500 gains by the end of 2024. The average of leading forecasts indicates the index finishing around 4,450, up approximately 2% from current levels.
However, predictions diverge widely based on inflation and recession expectations. An earlier than expected Fed pivot if inflation moderates faster would likely lead to outperformance. But persistently high inflation and aggressive tightening raises risks of underperformance.
As the economic and market outlook evolves through 2023, maintaining a diversified portfolio that can withstand volatility while participating in an eventual rebound is key for long-term investors.
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