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Analysts upbeat on stocks, CNBC survey finds

Despite concerns about a possible recession, nearly 60 percent of forecasters and money managers surveyed by CNBC believe stocks will rise 8 percent or more in the coming year.
/ Source: CNBC

Despite the stock market’s recent gyrations, some 60 of the nation's top money managers, investment strategists and professional economists say they are upbeat about the outlook for 2008, according to an online poll conducted by CNBC.

Of the group, roughly 58 percent said the Standard and Poor's 500 index would post gains of 8 percent or higher this year. Some 25 percent said the widely followed index would rise by 10 percent or more.

The survey was conducted on online from Dec. 31 to Jan. 3.

Of those who responded to CNBC’s invitation to participate, the consensus was most bullish for stocks in the financial, technology and health care sectors. Sectors expected to be the worst performers in 20087 included energy, materials, utilities, and so-called consumer discretionary stocks.

On the economic outlook, some 60 percent believe the odds of a recession are 50 percent or better over the next 12 months. That outlook is more pessimistic than similar surveys done in August and September of last year. But most believe the current credit crunch will have waned by the end of the year, with 46 percent predicting the credit market will be “much better” and 49 percent saying it will be "a little better" by year-end.

The group is less optimistic about the housing market, with only 5 percent expecting "much better" conditions by the end of 2008. Some 58 percent believe the housing market will be “a little better” while 21 percent said it will be “a little worse” and 5 percent believe it will be “much worse.”

Asked to handicap the presidential election campaign, 81 percent said Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee, but only 24 percent said she was their preferred Democratic candidate. The most support went to Barack Obama (31 percent) followed by “someone else" (29 percent), Bill Richardson (14 percent) and John Edwards (2 percent)

On the Republican side, 50 percent of the respondents believe Mitt Romney will be the GOP candidate, followed by Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, with 19 percent each. McCain was the preferred candidate (35 percent) followed by Romney (31 percent), Giuliani (15 percent), “someone else” (13 percent) and Mike Huckabee (6 percent).

Some 79 percent of those surveyed believe a Democrat will win the White House in 2008, while 58 percent said they would prefer to see a Republican win.

Here is a sample of some comments from respondents:

Richard Steinberg, Steinberg Global Asset Management:  “The market will focus on the elections and the fact that analyst estimates are too high. We will have to live through volatility in the short run to get through some of these issues.”

Robert Froehlich, DWS Scudder:  “With the U.S. economy struggling to grow at 2 percent in 2008 and the global economy growing at almost 6 percent in 2008, the investing story once again this year will be go global, go global and go even more global.  Stock markets tend to go wherever economies take them, and the global economy is positioned to take them much higher outside the U.S. than inside.”

Brian Wesbury, First Trust Advisors: “The most amazing business news story of 2008 will be how rapidly the economy heals itself from credit market problems. It's resilient — it's the Energizer bunny economy.”

Hugh Johnson, Johnson Illington Advisors:  “The real (most important) issue for investors in 2008 will not be whether or not there will be an economic recession, but when will the current earnings recession end.”

William Hummer, Wayne Hummer Investments:  “The U.S. economy has expanded in every year since 1982 excepting 1990-91.  Global growth, resilient consumer spending, sustained capital outlays and booming exports will surprise skeptics and deliver trend growth (8 percent) in 2008.”

Stuart Hoffman, PNC Financial Services Group:  “The U.S. economy in 2008 will be like a cat on a hot tin roof that has already used up eight of its nine lives. The heat is coming from high energy prices, and the roof is on a house that is falling in value. If this economy cat falls, it will not land on its feet!”

Scott Anderson, Wells Fargo:  “The economic outlook in 2008 will turn on the severity of the credit crunch. At best, there will be only a mild impact on overall consumer and business spending. At worst, we are looking at the early stages of the next U.S. economic recession.”

Clare Zempel, Zempel Strategic:  “Recession risk is overstated in the market. Real interest rates have been well below recession-inducing levels and are now in decline. The worst 'worst-case' is a 'mini-recession' like 1966-67. Bear market risk is overstated because the market is not overvalued ,and interest rates are declining.”

Daniel Laufenberg, Ameriprise Financial:  "The economy will surprise with its relative strength.  In the process, the dollar will firm, defensive safe haven equity sectors will underperform and the race for the White House will tighten. The conventional wisdom of a weak economy, aggressive Fed easing, a weaker dollar and a Democratic victory will all be called into question.