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Wall Street analysts won't kill the bull market

Illustration of a bull on a treadmill
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The issues that whipsawed stocks in 2018 — namely trade and the Fed — aren't going anywhere this year, leaving few catalysts to push stocks to new highs.

The big picture: Analysts overwhelmingly predict the historic bull run has at least one more year to go. The analysts who cut their expectations say they did so because of recent market volatility. "The world’s largest banks and money managers are gearing up for the last hurrah of one of the longest bull markets in history," Bloomberg writes.

Source: Yahoo Finance and analysis of Wall Street outlooks; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Wall Street outlooks reviewed by Axios say that although the U.S.-China trade war is the crucial factor for stocks, almost all feel good about the likelihood of a deal, despite the unpredictable nature of the trade conflict.

  • A continuing trade war would hit CEO confidence and create more uncertainty for capital expenditure plans.
  • And thanks to dwindling impact from the corporate tax cut, earnings growth is expected to fall to 8% from 20% this year. Add an escalation of the trade war and there will be no earnings growth next year, UBS strategist Keith Parker predicts.

The Fed may back off on hiking interest rates as quickly as previously planned, but the central bank will continue on the tightening path and won't revert to easing — despite what traders are betting.

  • As Axios' Dion Rabouin notes, Fed chair Jerome Powell's thinking may have shifted after the bleak performance of equity markets in December. But if the economic data remains solid, it's unclear how much further equities will have to fall in order to see the Fed really dial back its hawkish stance.
  • An added Fed wild card: This year brings more press conferences, and thus more chances for Powell to spook the markets. Or, if we're being optimistic, give the market more opportunity to adapt to Powell's communication style.

What to watch: We'll get some clue about how the biggest issues for the market may play out early in the year: Trade talks kick off within the next few days, and the Fed holds a two-day meeting and faces reporters in late January.