This time a year ago, the market had rallied strongly off the March lows. On March 19, just four short days before the final surge of selling and investor capitulation on March 23, Barry Bannister and his equity strategy team at Stifel dropped a prediction for a relief rally that would carry the S&P 500 to the 2,750 level by April 30. On March 23, the index finally cratered for good, hitting an intraday low of 2,191 and closing at 2,237.
We covered the bold prediction then, and while some were very skeptical of the call, Bannister made the prerequisite financial media rounds at the time giving his firm’s rationale for the prediction. In early April of 2020, as a surge of alarming news on the COVID-19 pandemic flooded the airwaves, Bannister and the Stifel team came out again and defended the call, telling clients to stand their ground.
In the middle of April, as the rest of Wall Street was finally getting on board, the team raised the end-of-April target to 2,950. On April 30, in line with the call from Stifel, the S&P 500 closed at 2,912, after hitting an intraday high of 2,930 and after trading to 2,950 the day before. In late May of 2020, Stifel once again raised the price target on the S&P 500 to 3,250 by August 30.
Much of Bannister’s incredible call has been lost in the sturm und drang of the past year, which included a very contentious election, a massive widening of the gulf between Americans, a tsunami of constant negative pandemic news and a shuttered economy. However, the S&P 500 now sits almost 700 points higher than in late August in one of the most incredible bull market runs in the history of Wall Street.
While there is every reason for the positive, forward-looking commentary emanating from Wall Street, especially after the stunning first-quarter results, the reality is the market is expensive and overbought, yields have gone higher, and inflation, despite the “transitory” commentary from the Federal Reserve, is making itself felt in a big way. Just ask motorists, grocery shoppers or homebuilders. With all those metrics and many more, Bannister sees the potential for a 5% to 10% move down over the next six months.
Using the same tools that helped to predict the massive rally after the market sold off almost 35% in a month last year, Bannister combines a little “sell in May and go away” with a host of additional data and metrics.