Below are the criteria and methodology I use to evaluate the S&P 500 and upon which I conclude that fair market value is approximately 1415, or about 4% above Tuesday's closing quote of 1363.
Scenario No. 1 -- Economic Reacceleration Above Consensus
(probability stays at 5%): The pace of U.S. economic recovery reaccelerates to above-consensus forecasts (3%+ real GDP growth) based on pro-growth fiscal policies geared toward generating job growth; corporate profit margins being preserved (with low inflation and contained wage growth); interest rates remaining low; and durable spending (housing and autos) recovering sharply as pent-up demand is unleashed. The $550 billion fiscal cliff is whittled down to only about $150 billion (subtracting less than 0.5% from 2013 real GDP) as Governor Romney wins the Presidency and the Republican Party gains control of the Senate and regains the House. Europe stabilizes (and experiences a shallow recession), and China has a soft landing (with GDP growth tracking in excess of 8%). There is no QE3. S&P 500 profit estimates for 2013 are raised to $110-$113 per share. Stocks, valued at 15.5x under this outcome, have 27% upside over the next eight months. S&P target is 1725.
Scenario No. 2 -- Recession
(probability stays at 5%): The U.S. enters a recession precipitated by a loss of business and consumer confidence, producing a fall in manufacturing output and personal consumption expenditures. The Democratic Party regains the White House and the Senate, but the Republicans maintain control of the House of Representative. The schism between the two parties persists. Partisanship leads to rancor during summer debt-ceiling deliberations (instituted because of slowing nominal GDP) similar to that of August 2011. Confidence deteriorates further, and the housing market seizes up as bank lending becomes more restrictive when the fiscal cliff is not remedied/addressed (the hit to GDP is -1.5% to -2.0%). QE3 is instituted but fails to contain the economic weakness. A series of European bank failures and EU sovereign debt defaults contribute to a deepening European recession and a hard landing in China and India. S&P 500 earnings estimates for 2013 are materially reduced to $75 to $80 per share. Stocks, valued at 11.5x under this outcome, have 34% downside risk over the next eight months. S&P target is 890.