US stocks face a painful rest of 2023 with a recession set to take the shine off the AI-fueled rally, HSBC says

Investors should brace for a fourth-quarter recession that’ll drag down stock prices, according to HSBC.ANGELA WEISS/Getty Images

  • Brace for a fourth-quarter US recession that’ll hit stock prices, according to HSBC.

  • The bank said in its mid-year investment outlook that rising interest rates will likely trigger an economic slump in the second half of 2023.

  • “The newsflow over the next six months could be tough” for markets, strategists said.

Investors should brace for stock-market pain over the rest of the year with a long-forecast recession likely to finally hit the US economy in the fourth quarter of 2023, according to HSBC.

The bank said in its mid-year investment outlook this week that it expects the Federal Reserve’s interest-rate hikes to drag growth into negative territory over the next six months, which would likely hammer stocks by chipping away at listed companies’ earnings.

“Our central scenario is for a recession environment in western economies, and a difficult, choppy outlook for markets,” a team led by HSBC’s global CIO Xavier Baraton said.

That gloomy outlook comes after stocks staged an impressive rally during the first half.

The benchmark S&P 500 has jumped around 14% year-to-date, with investors loading up on tech stocks amid a surge in investor enthusiasm toward artificial intelligence.

But that rally only just means equities have further to fall when bad news about the economy starts to dominate headlines, according to Baraton’s team.

“Markets do not appear to be pricing a particularly pessimistic view of the world. Yet, the newsflow over the next six months could be tough,” they wrote.

“We are not massive bears, but think news about the economy could be tough to digest for a market which is pricing a ‘soft landing’,” the strategists added, referring to a scenario where the Fed manages to bring inflation down to its 2% target level without crushing growth.

HSBC’s current base case is that the economy will slip into a recession in the last three months of the year.

Furthermore, 2024 will then be a “year of contraction” that echoes the more mild recessions of the 1990s, rather than the severe slumps triggered by the 2008 financial crisis and 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.

And that recession will even take some of the shine off the AI boom, which have helped stocks like Nvidia, Tesla, and Meta Platforms rack up triple-digit returns over the past six months.

“While the AI trade this year supports our view that exposing portfolios to important megatrends can result in unique return drivers to enhance returns and provide a means of diversification, valuations appear rich,” the HSBC strategists said.

Read more: This recession indicator flashed again as the Fed signaled more rate hikes. It hasn’t been wrong for 44 years.

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