The stock market is headed for another big sell-off unless economic data quickly improves, Goldman Sachs said in a Thursday note.
Goldman is concerned that much of the 14% rally from the mid-June low has been driven by systematic traders rather than fundamental investors.
"Without clear signs of a positive shift in macro momentum, temporary re-risking could actually increase risks of another leg lower," Goldman said.
The bank said that unless economic data quickly improves, the stock market is headed for another big sell-off that could ultimately lead to new lows.
"Without clear signs of a positive shift in macro momentum, temporary re-risking could actually increase risks of another leg lower in the market rather than signal the end of the bear market," Goldman's Cecilia Mariotti said.
That is especially true if the nearly two-month long surge in stock prices has been driven by systematic traders rather than fundamental investors, according to Goldman, as traders can more quickly dump the long exposure and turn bearish.
Depressed investor sentiment and low equity positioning among traders in 2022 is not enough for a sustainable bottom in stocks to materialize, the bank said.
"Given the misalignment we see in growth pricing across assets vs. the still elevated risks to growth investors might face in 2H, we remain comfortable with our somewhat defensive allocation over three months, and would wait for additional clarity on the macro side before expecting a sustained and prolonged market turn," Mariotti said.
One concern the bank has is the impact of high inflation on retail investors' ability to continue buying more stocks, as rising prices for everything from gas to food erodes their purchasing power. High inflation could be especially potent as the saving rate continues its decline to pre-pandemic levels.
"This is particularly relevant as households – alongside corporates – have been one of the largest sources of US equity demand," Mariotti said.
A decline in inflation would be a welcome sign for the Federal Reserve, consumers, and investors, and there are some early signs building via falling commodity prices that suggest a peak in the current cycle of inflation has already happened or is right around the corner.
Falling inflation would give the Fed flexibility in slowing down its interest rate hike trajectory. That, combined with resilient earnings and a rebound in consumer sentiment could help build conviction that the current stock rally has legs. But until inflation decisively peaks, the risk to the downside remains, according to Goldman.
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