BofA’s Carey Hall Says Stock Sentiment Nearing ‘Sell Signal’

(Bloomberg) — seniorBank of America clients pouring money into the stock market may want to listen closely to the firm’s senior U.S. equity strategist, who sees the S&P 500 heading down and value stocks as the place to be.

“We’re at 3,800 on the S&P 500 for yearend,” Jill Carey Hall said in a Friday interview on Bloomberg TV’s Surveillance. “A lot of the good news has really been priced into the market this year.”

Her forecast would imply a slide of about 14% for the benchmark gauge of American equities from its current levels. Carey Hall spoke before the U.S. Labor Department reported stronger-than-expected growth in job creation, with 943,000 new positions added to the economy in July after upwardly revised increases the prior two months.

The S&P 500 is trading near all-time highs, after almost doubling from the depths of the pandemic, as robust earnings growth and low interest rates fuel investor confidence. That bullish sentiment has pushed a Bank of America gauge that plots levels of strategist optimism to a post-crisis high.

“Multiples are very elevated on the index,” Carey Hall noted. “The sentiment indicators that we track have been growing increasingly bullish and our Wall Street equities sentiment measure is very close to a sell signal. I think earnings season suggests that a lot of the good news has been priced in.”

For example, companies that report earnings above analysts’ estimates “just aren’t outperforming very much,” she said. “Outside of last quarter, the last time we saw that happen was around March of 2000.” The S&P 500 lost 10% that year.

Carey Hall recommended cyclical stocks that generally do better as the economy expands, and so-called value shares over growth stocks.

“We still like some of the cyclical areas over defensives,” she said. “We’re overweight energy, we’re overweight financials. We still like value over growth. These value stocks are generally cheap and under-owned relative to growth stocks.”

The S&P 500 rose 0.1% at 2:44 p.m. in New York Friday, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 underperformed major U.S. benchmarks.

(Updates trading. An earlier version of this story corrected title in first sentence, quote in next-to-last paragraph.)

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William Murphy

William Murphy

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