Artificial intelligence, great wealth transfer: Why this financial analyst sees a rosy time ahead for stocks

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Some investors may worry about market volatility ahead, given a contentious presidential race, lingering inflation, sinking consumer sentiment and uncertainty over Federal Reserve interest rate cuts.

Financial analyst Tom Lee has a more optimistic outlook.

“Since Covid, companies went through a huge stress test, and they showed that they are really good at adjusting to inflation shocks, supply shocks, economy shutdown,” said Lee, managing partner and head of research at Fundstrat Global Advisors.

He spoke on Wednesday at the CNBC Financial Advisors Summit.

As a result, he said: “We think the earnings power is much better than people realized.”

Even as inflation cools, many companies will benefit, Lee said. (Higher prices are usually considered a good thing for businesses.)

“A lot of companies have an inverse correlation to inflation,” he said. “A great example is technology is inversely correlated to inflation, so their margins actually go up if inflation is falling.”

As for concerns that the Federal Reserve could trigger a recession if it lowers interest rates prematurely? Lee doesn’t see that happening.

“We’ve been more optimistic that they’re going to achieve their idea of a soft landing,” he said.

AI’s payoff

Lee said his firm has studied what drives innovation cycles in America. In the two biggest previous periods — in the 1940s and 1950s, and then again in the 1990s — there was a global labor shortage.

“There was a lot of pressure on either wages or ways to innovate to produce more output,” Lee said.

“We’ve gone into a period of structural deficit of prime force labor, which is going to last until 2045, which means another tech cycle, I think, is underway.”

Lee estimates that the worker shortage will leave companies with an extra $3 trillion a year that they would have otherwise spent on wages.

“To us, this is really early stages for the amount of money that will be spent on generative AI,” said Lee, pointing to profits already seen by companies like Nvidia.

A $90 trillion wealth transfer

Another reason Lee sees a rosy time ahead for stocks: Over the next 20 years, millennials are set to inherit as much as $90 trillion from the baby boomer generation, by some estimates.

“[It’s] one of the largest wealth transfers ever in history, it’s more net worth than the entire net worth of China,” Lee said.

The so-called great wealth transfer could lead certain stocks to rise dramatically, he said.

“Many surveys we saw even five years ago showed young people trust technology companies more than governments, which means they’re going to support tech and innovation,” Lee said.

A word of caution

Despite all-time highs for stocks, clients are often best sticking to their long-term strategies,  said Douglas Boneparth, a certified financial planner, president and founder of Bone Fide Wealth, a wealth management firm based in New York City.

“Disciplined investors have been rewarded throughout 2023 and into 2024,” said Boneparth,  a member of the CNBC Financial Advisor Council.

That not only means not selling in a panic during inevitable dips, but also keeping some assets at a healthy distance from the market even during the good times.

“I remind our clients that maintaining a robust cash reserve is important to help navigate volatility, protect against emergencies [and to] take advantage of any opportunities,” Boneparth said.

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