2018 Stock Market Outlook: Double-Digit Returns?


  • We forecast 8–10% returns for the S&P 500 in 2018.
  • The S&P 500 is well positioned to generate strong earnings, in our view, thanks to better global growth and potentially lower corporate tax rates.

Back to business: fundamentals to drive stock market gains in 2018. With a focus on business fundamentals and the impact of fiscal policy, the return of the business cycle means that earnings growth may have to shoulder most, if not all, of the load if stocks are going to produce attractive returns in 2018.

The good news is the S&P 500 Index may be well positioned to generate earnings growth at or near double-digits in 2018 thanks to a combination of better economic growth and potentially lower corporate tax rates, despite some possible downward pressure on profit margins from higher wages.

We also expect the stock market’s price-to-earnings (PE) multiple, at 19.5 times trailing earnings, to hold steady (or drop slightly) in 2018, as the economic cycle ages, inflation picks up modestly, and central bank policy tightens further*.

Risks to our stock market forecast include Congress failing to pass a tax agreement (a low risk after Senate passage over the weekend), a potential policy mistake by a central bank, and political uncertainty around the midterm elections.

*The PE ratio (price-to-earnings ratio) is a measure of the price paid for a share relative to the annual net income or profit earned by the firm per share. It is a financial ratio used for valuation: a higher PE ratio means that investors are paying more for each unit of net income, so the stock is more expensive compared to one with a lower PE ratio.