Wells Fargo Believes 2024 Will Be a Pivotal Year for the Economy and Markets

Wells Fargo Investment Institute released its 2024 outlook, offerings its ideas for investors to consider in the new year. The institute believes the 2024 economic story could be a tale of two halves for fixed income and equities. The first half will likely be more challenging, as the institute expects instability during a moderate global economic slowdown (including in the U.S.), pivoting into a second half that develops into an improving, more opportunistic environment for investors.

“More long-term opportunities to put money back to work across some markets and regions should come as 2024 develops,” Darrell Cronk, chief investment officer for Wells Fargo Wealth & Investment Management, said. “WFII’s outlook for most of the past two years has been cautious and focused on selectivity and quality, with an eye toward a better year next year. That theme continues in our 2024 outlook report.

“The resilient U.S. economy has been supported by consumer spending, a strong labor market and business capital spending. The journey, however, was more difficult for investors, with the Federal Reserve (Fed) raising interest rates and tightened monetary conditions. Investors following WFII advice during 2023’s slow-motion slowdown should be able to use accumulated fixed-income assets to invest later next year.”

Once investors begin to look past the economic slowdown to a recovery, Wells Fargo expects opportunities in a broad early-cycle global recovery later in 2024. As is often the case, that time will likely come while the economy is still weak, the Fed is cutting interest rates and markets are beginning to anticipate sustainable economic and earnings growth, according to the report. Wells Fargo also noted that those equity sectors that tie most closely to the economy’s cyclical turn higher should benefit the most at that time.

Outlook Highlights

  • Economic crosswinds will net to a moderate U.S. economic slowdown by the early part of 2024, lowering the full-year U.S. gross domestic product target to 0.7% in 2024.
  • The target for inflation in 2024 is 2.5%. Lagging effects to cool inflation in the U.S. will continue to make an impact, but the Fed’s 2% target will likely remain out of reach given the competing factors of underlying strength.
  • Once investors begin to anticipate an economic and earnings recovery, Wells Fargo expects the S&P 500 Index to gain into year-end. The target range for 2024 is 4,600 to 4,800.
  • Wells Fargo’s base scenario implies two quarter-point Fed rate cuts in 2024, causing the federal funds rate forecast in 2024 to decline toward 4.75% to 5%.

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