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Earnings season is the next test for stock strategists' targets

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
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Wall Street's top stock strategists expect the S&P 500 to gain about 6.5 percent from current levels by year-end, but those forecasts face a formidable challenge in the next couple of weeks from corporate earnings season.

A negative outlook for company earnings is already baked in with expectations for the first profit decline in six years. But if the outlook does not brighten for the economy and earnings later in the year, some of Wall Street's rosiest forecasts are at risk.

CNBC SURVEY: MARKET STRATEGIST OUTLOOK

The average forecast in CNBC's Market Strategist Survey of 15 top Wall Street equity strategists is 2,220 for the S&P 500. The index was trading at around 2,080 midday Thursday, after starting the year at 2,059 for a gain so far of just 1 percent.