Brace for a ‘tough year’ for stocks, top economist Mark Zandi warns

Brace for a 'tough year' for stocks, top economist Mark Zandi warns

A new report suggests the record stock market highs are on borrowed time.

According to Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi’s 2020 outlook, the backdrop is showing signs of cracks.

Zandi gave CNBC an exclusive first look at his economic forecast ahead of its official release.

“All of the pillars of the stock market look a bit shaky to me,” he told “Trading Nation” Thursday. “While the economy will be okay in 2020, I think the stock market will have a rougher go of it.”

While he cites consumer spending, household balance sheets, jobs growth and a housing market as economic bright spots, he also sees slower than expected real GDP growth, a growing federal budget deficit and challenged corporate earnings pressuring the economy.

“Businesses are going to struggle with declining margin, and so corporate earnings growth will be flat. Lackluster,” he said.

Yet, 2020 opened with a bang on Wall Street. The Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq hit fresh record highs.  The Dow is now less 4% from the 30,000 milestone.

“Tough year for stocks”

“The consensus around stock prices is decidedly upbeat,” he wrote in his outlook note. “Few are expecting stock prices to rise as much in 2020, but even fewer are expecting it to be a tough year for stocks. We are.”

Zandi warns the presidential election will also hurt growth.

“The issue for 2020 is going to be the presidential election and the uncertainty that it creates,” said Zandi. “Business people, CEOs looking at that… they’re going to sit on their hands, and investment is going to be weak and soft.”

Zandi’s base case is the stock market ends the year flat or below current levels as real GDP grows by 2%.

“That’s the average rate of growth we’ve been getting throughout the expansion,” Zandi said. “I don’t think we get much more than that. I don’t see anything driving growth higher than that.”


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