As stock indexes sit near all-time-highs, Wall Street’s biggest banks say future returns look dim. Strategists at Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and BofA aren’t bullish on the index in the near-term. They share 9 areas of the markets where investors can find the best opportunities right now. See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Stocks continue to reach new highs as the economy begins to reopen with more than 40% of the US population vaccinated against COVID-19.

But investors shouldn’t expect to continue seeing the returns they have over the last year, some of the biggest investment banks on Wall Street are now saying.

According to strategists at Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Bank of America, the S&P 500 is staring down a period of weak returns with the economic recovery already largely priced in.

In recent notes to clients, each firm highlighted reasons why they’re relatively bearish – or at least agnostic – on the performance of the broader market in the months ahead.

Goldman Sachs on Monday pointed to the precedent of stocks’ performance when economic growth begins to slow, as their economists argue it will begin to do in Q3. They looked at historical returns of the S&P 500 based on readings of the ISM Manufacturing Index, an indicator of economic activity.

“Equities often struggle in the short term when a strong rate of economic growth first begins to slow,” Goldman’s Chief US Equity Strategist David Kostin said in the note. “During the last 40 years, investors buying the S&P 500 when the ISM Manufacturing index registered above 60 – typically coinciding with peak growth – have experienced a median return of -1% during the subsequent month and a paltry +3% return during the subsequent year.”

He continued: “The most recent ISM reading was 64.7. In fact, our S&P 500 year-end target reflects a 4% total return from the current level, including dividends. Our mid-year 2021 target remains 4100.”

These trends are laid out in the chart below.


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