Last week we discussed whether stock prices might be reflecting peak optimism. In that commentary we noted that while sentiment may be overly optimistic and a pickup in volatility would be totally normal, strong breadth measures suggest stocks still may have more upside. This week we tackle that same topic of peak optimism, but by looking at some valuation metrics. While valuations are elevated, they still appear reasonable when factoring in interest rates and inflation.
Global stock markets are off to a strong start in 2021 as the world begins to emerge from the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the United States, vaccinations are increasing, the economy is expanding, unemployment is falling, and stimulus continues to flow through the economy. With the consensus crowding into an optimistic corner, many investors are wondering if sentiment may be running too hot.
The outstanding fourth-quarter earnings season we had in 2020 is a tough act to follow, but 2021’s first quarter has the makings of another potentially great earnings season. The reopening of the economy continues to move forward, and corporate America has done an excellent job managing through the pandemic. In fact, it won’t take much of an upside surprise for year-over-year S&P 500 Index earnings growth to reach 30% this quarter. The 2021 earnings boom is here.
The U.S. economy’s recovery from the pandemic continues to surpass our expectations, aided by the accelerating vaccine distribution, massive stimulus, and America’s desire to resume some semblance of normal daily life. Despite having raised our 2021 economic and earnings growth forecasts on February 8, we are doing so again. We are also raising—and narrowing—our 10-year Treasury yield forecast range. Our S&P 500 Index target remains unchanged.