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3 big things pros say you should watch out for in the stock market in 2024

A record-setting stock market, powered by hopes of numerous interest rate cuts in 2024 and momentum around Magnificent Seven stocks such as Nvidia (NVDA) and Apple (AAPL), has some on Wall Street growing a little concerned about the sustainability of the rally.

“This is what it looks like when 65% of fund managers are behind their benchmark, we have this huge year-end push,” Great Hill Capital chairman Thomas Hayes said on Yahoo Finance Live (video above). “We have come a long way in a short period of time, and now consensus is we must correct in January and February. I think a lot of people are positioning for a 5% or 10% correction — it wouldn’t be surprising to see some consolidation in January and February.”

The concern on the short-term market outlook is well placed for a few reasons.

For one, history is on the side of the stock correction seekers.

Over the last 20 years, the S&P 500 has only moved higher in January 50% of the time, according to data from Trading.biz analyst Cory Mitchell. That is the lowest of any month.

Moreover, the average gain for the S&P 500 during the last two decades is a mere 0.1%. Mitchell points out the increase reflects a strong January 2023, where the S&P 500 advanced nearly 7%.

Barring this year, from 2003 to 2022, January averaged a return of -0.4% and only rallied 9 out of 20 years (45%).

And secondarily, investors will have to contend with early government-related risks.

HSBC strategist Jose Rasco tells Yahoo Finance Live there are two potential headwinds coming out of Washington to kick off the year: the start of the 2024 election process and another scramble to avert a government shutdown.

To be sure, there are a host of elements that market experts are keeping an eye on in 2024 beyond January.

Here are three in particular shared with Yahoo Finance.

Be complacent at your own risk, pros are generally warning.

Steve Sosnick quote card

Steve Sosnick quote card

1. Watch earnings and the subsequent economic message

Tom Essaye, founder of Sevens Report Research: “I agree the timing of [rate] cuts is a big one that people are focused on, but there are two others I think are equally as important.

First is earnings. Reports recently haven’t been good, and if disinflation turns into a headwind for corporate profits, that could be a surprise in early 2024 because markets have priced in solid earnings growth in 2024.

Second, what if the slowdown is worse than feared? For anyone who has been through previous Fed rate cut cycles, they usually don’t end well for stocks. Yes, it’s possible that this time is different and I agree there are unique circumstances coming from the pandemic, but the complacency towards a gradual slowdown is something that we need to watch early in the New Year.”

2. Will the Magnificent Seven still lead the market?

Keith Lerner, co-chief investment officer of Truist: “For markets, the broadening rally story vs. Magnificent 7 theme continues. The market cap vs. equal weight and small-caps (the latter of which has improved) should be watched.

That has implications for the success of active managers who had a challenging year … but over the last three months, more than 50% of stocks within the S&P 500 are now beating the index.

Tech dominance or lack thereof has implications for investing in general. Tech is a much larger allocation in large caps vs small-caps and U.S. has a lot more tech than Europe … so the fate of tech has far-reaching implications.”

3. Deciding who is right in the markets

Steve Sosnick, chief strategist at Interactive Brokers: “For me, the most important question that we need to resolve is who is correct: equity investors expecting a soft landing that allows for solid earnings growth, or fixed income markets that are implying something worse?

Let’s stipulate that the Fed has indeed announced a pivot, and that the battle against inflation, if not yet fully won, is close to over. Thus, if the economy is decent, two to four rate cuts seems appropriate. Why then are Fed Funds futures expecting six rate cuts? If the Fed needs to cut six times — in an election year, mind you — the reason wouldn’t be a good one. Remember also that we still have a roughly 40-50 basis points inversion between 2-and 10-year yields. Those are screaming hard landing. The fact that leading economic indicators has been below zero for over a year doesn’t help.

So, the markets have to sort this out over the next few months. If the landing is indeed a very soft one, rate expectations need to move higher, putting a headwind on valuations. If the landing is a hard one, it will be hard to justify the ~10% earnings growth that is priced in. If a Goldilocks scenario does indeed come about, then the current rally can continue unabated. If we’re either too hot or too cold, the current ‘everything rally’ will need to take a breather (or more).”

Brian Sozzi is Yahoo Finance’s Executive Editor. Follow Sozzi on Twitter/X @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn. Tips on deals, mergers, activist situations, or anything else? Email brian.sozzi@yahoofinance.com.

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