Goldman Sachs lifts benchmark European share index’s 12-month target to 500

(Reuters) – Goldman Sachs has raised its 12-month forecast for the pan-European STOXX 600 index to 500, implying a nearly 6% gain through 2024-end, on expectation of lower interest rates.

Goldman’s target is roughly 1% above the index’s January 2022 high. The U.S. Federal Reserve began raising interest rates in March of the year.

The brokerage had earlier expected the index to close 2024 at 480 points. The STOXX 600 has risen more than 11% so far this year.

“We find that lower inflation combined with lower rates is typically associated with modestly higher valuations,” Peter Oppenheimer, chief global equity strategist at Goldman, said in a note dated Dec. 8.

The markets have already priced in expectations of lower inflation, he added.

“On average, since 1973 European equities have delivered 7% real per annum price returns in an environment of 1-3% inflation and falling.”

Despite weaker economic activity, especially in Germany, and concerns over profits for capex- and China-exposed companies, Oppenheimer said the valuation of STOXX 600 remains “unchallenging”.

The index currently trades at 12.5 times forward earnings over the next 12 months.

For 2024, Goldman Sachs maintains that European companies’ earnings will grow by 7%.

The brokerage has downgraded its recommendation on European banks to “neutral” as the European Central Bank is expected to cut interest rates next year.

(This story has been corrected to say that the Fed began raising interest rates in March 2022, and not January, in paragraph 2)

(Reporting by Roshan Abraham in Bengaluru; Editing by Mrigank Dhaniwala)