Citi Team Downgrades US Stocks on Recession Risk, Favors China

(Bloomberg) — Citigroup Inc. strategists cut their recommendation on US stocks to neutral on the risk of a recession, joining an increasing number of banks in warning of a growth slowdown.

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The market is showing “elements of a deflating bubble” with high uncertainty and the lack of reassurance from the Federal Reserve, strategists including Dirk Willer wrote in a May 27 note. “Given that it will likely take time for the Fed to react to equity and growth weakness, we take our long standing US equity overweight back to zero,” they wrote.

The New York-based bank joins BlackRock Inc. and Morgan Stanley in flagging risks stemming from a slowing US economy as the Federal Reserve tightens to curb inflation. But opinion on US equities remains divided, with some Wall Street analysts betting on a rebound in the belief that the odds of recession are overstated.

The S&P 500 Index has slumped 15% this year on growth fears, although the gauge pared losses to head for its first weekly gain since early April. A weakening dollar, less-hawkish Fed commentary and a decent set of corporate earnings have helped lift market sentiment.

Citi Strategists Say Buy the Dip in Stocks on ‘Healthy’ Returns

Meanwhile, Citigroup remains underweight US credit which “trades poorly into recessions,” while shifting its call on US government bonds back to neutral from underweight as a hedge for risky assets.

The bank also maintained its optimistic view on Chinese equities and sovereign bonds, saying it still wants to be exposed to the nation’s assets “with China being the only major market where authorities are at least marginally supportive.”

More Wall Street banks have become sanguine on Chinese stocks recently amid efforts by authorities to shore up economic growth. JPMorgan Chase & Co. analysts upgraded Chinese technology firms to overweight from underweight just two months after deeming the sector “uninvestable”, while UBS Group AG and Credit Suisse Group AG are both bullish on the broader market.

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