As we approach the midway point of 2023, the US stock market has given investors quite the thrill ride. The Nasdaq 100 Index, a favorite barometer of tech-heavy equities, is on track for its most dynamic opening six months ever recorded. After a 2022 slump that disappointed many, the index has exploded with a stunning surge of 36%, easily wiping away last year’s 33% downturn. However, this unexpected resurgence has not come without its fair share of concerns and skepticism.
While some revel in the rebound, a growing undercurrent of worry is stirring on Wall Street. Experts are increasingly concerned that the Federal Reserve’s impending policy shifts might put an end to this record-breaking rally. However, others believe this concern is misplaced, pinning their hopes on the continued resilience of the US economy and an encouraging outlook for corporate earnings.
Historically, a strong first-half showing in the stock market bodes well for the remainder of the year. However, it would be premature to cast aside all doubts. The recent rally, while impressive, seems disproportionately driven by a handful of big tech players like Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp., and Nvidia Corp. This has led to mounting apprehensions about overvalued tech stocks and concerns about a potential bubble waiting to burst. These worries have not been entirely unfounded. The S&P 500 Index has recently seen its worst week since March, hinting at a potential market cooling.
Nevertheless, many global money managers are still optimistic, eagerly hoping that 2023 can end on a positive note after the tumultuous downturn of 2022 that led to the largest annual losses in the Nasdaq 100 and S&P 500 since 2008. And there are some encouraging signs to support their optimism.
For instance, the S&P 500 has made a remarkable recovery, gaining 17% this year and erasing all losses since the Fed initiated its cycle of rate hikes in March 2022. This rebound, which has brought the index up 27% from its Oct. 13 trough, demonstrates the resilience of the market, affirming the reputation of October as a “bear-market killer.”
However, it’s worth mentioning that these successes have far exceeded Wall Street’s initial predictions for 2023. As we entered the year, many analysts were expecting the S&P 500 to plateau, and as we approach the halfway mark, they are forecasting it to end the year around 6% below its current standing.
Skeptics like Morgan Stanley’s Mike Wilson and JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Marko Kolanovic believe this surge will be short-lived, citing potential further tightening by the Fed. Yet, there are those like Bank of America Corp.’s Savita Subramanian who argue that the concerns over Big Tech monopolizing the rally are exaggerated.
Furthermore, the recent market has grown beyond just the tech sector. Other sectors that underperformed in 2022, like consumer discretionary stocks, have also seen double-digit growth this year. Even some cyclically sensitive sectors, such as industrial and materials, have joined the rally, which is a reassuring sign for investors as these groups often perform well in the early stages of bull markets.
As we look towards the second half of 2023, investors must navigate a complex and volatile landscape. But there is comfort to be found in historical trends. According to data compiled by Bloomberg, a strong first half for the S&P 500 has typically led to a robust second half. Since the early 1950s, when the index climbed more than 10% through June, it typically continued to rise by a median of 10% in the remaining six months, as per Ryan Detrick, chief market strategist at Carson Group.
Whether we’re witnessing a tech-stock bubble on the verge of bursting or a durable rally set to defy the skeptics will be revealed in the coming months. In the meantime, investors should remain vigilant, keep their nerves steady, and perhaps, in the spirit of cautious optimism, prepare to celebrate a strong year-end finish.