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Investors believe the biggest threat to the markets now is a Fed misstep, CNBC survey shows

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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on December 08, 2021 in New York City.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images

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A majority of Wall Street investors believe the biggest threat facing the markets right now is a policy error by the Federal Reserve as the central bank wrestles with taming decades-high inflation, according to the new CNBC Delivering Alpha investor survey.

We polled about 400 chief investment officers, equity strategists, portfolio managers and CNBC contributors who manage money about where they stood on the markets for the rest of 2022. The survey was conducted this week.

Forty-six percent of the survey respondents said a Fed misstep could have the potential to derail the bull market, while 33% said surging U.S. inflation poses a major threat. Eleven percent listed further aggression from Russia after its invasion of Ukraine as the biggest threat to the markets.

Earlier this month, the Fed approved a 0.25 percentage point rate hike, the first increase since December 2018. The central bank also signaled that it will be raise rates 10 times — in less than two years — and cut what likely will be trillions off the balance sheet.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell recently vowed tough action on soaring prices, indicating he’s open to rate hikes more than the traditional 25 basis points.

Many notable investors are skeptical that the central bank will be able to engineer a soft landing even with a stronger economy.

Famed investor Carl Icahn recently said he sees a “rough landing” and said that there “very well could be a recession or even worse” even the sky-high inflation and elevated geopolitical tensions.

The so-called bond king Jeffery Gundlach has criticized the Fed’s role in fighting inflation, saying that the recent readings made the Fed’s 2% target look “laughable.”

The investor expects the consumer price index to peak at 10% potentially and end this year at 7.5%. The CPI for February, which measures the costs of dozens of everyday consumer goods, rose 7.9% compared with a year ago, the highest reading since 1982.

As for their market outlook, most investors (58%) see flat returns for the S&P 500 in 2022, while 36% believe the equity benchmark could rise about 8% to end the year above the 5,000 level.

Only 6% sees a correction before the year-end to take the S&P 500 below 4,000.

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