Stocks Likely to Climb Slowly, S&P at 1,050 In a Year: Cohen

The Standard & Poor's 500 could hit 1,050 within the next year even as the economy struggles to recover, noted Goldman Sachs analyst Abby Joseph Cohen told CNBC.

Abby Joseph Cohen
Abby Joseph Cohen

As the stock market improves, gross domestic product probably will turn positive by the second half of the year, but only modestly as it registers gains of 1 to 2 percent, Cohen said in a live interview.

"The S&P and the Dow will be moving like a staircase," she said. "We've seen a 35 percent lift from the bottom and we may be stuck here for a while in a higher trading range as we await more fundamental news."

That incremental movement higher could result in a 15 percent gain for the S&P by mid-2010.

The forecast ups the ante from the most recent projection made by Cohen in April, when she told CNBC that the S&P could hit 900 by the end of the year.

"We think the fundamental information will get better gradually, and so a staircase pattern moving higher six to 12 months from now (with the ) S&P between 1,000 and 1,050 even with very modest profit expectations," Cohen added.

The economic recovery is likely to be uneven, she said. Inventories will increase as businesses see demand improve gradually, while areas of the housing market that suffered the most probably will be the first to recover, she said.

"I don't want to say that that it is looking good but clearly it's not falling off the cliff as it had been previously, and that is making investors feel more comfortable," Cohen said.

Addressing the question of inflation, Cohen said it is not likely to be a problem soon but said in a few years oil prices could become an issue again. However, analysts at Goldman believe oil prices are "somewhat ahead of themselves" and likely to back up.

"Our real concern is a year or two down the road when the US economy and the global economy are in better shape--particularly all that demand coming from China," she said. "When that happens, we may in fact see that demand is outstripping supply."

In the near term, nobody should be expecting anything drastic.

"The reality is that different sectors of the economy went into recession at different points," Cohen said. "They will come out at different times, and with different levels of vigor."