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Wall Street can forget its 2020 forecasts without a trade deal

Happy Wednesday. A version of this story first appeared in CNN Business’ Before the Bell newsletter. Not a subscriber? You can sign up right here.

Wall Street has issued binders full of 2020 forecasts in recent days, and the consensus is clear: Strategists expect the global economy to remain subdued in 2020, with GDP growth only marginally stronger than in 2019.

Even so, banks are betting that stocks will keep pushing higher. Bank of America Merrill Lynch thinks the S&P 500 can hit 3,300, a rise of nearly 7% over Tuesday’s close. Goldman Sachs expects the index to reach 3,400, a 10% jump.

But the predictions rely in large part on a deescalation of the trade war between the United States and China. This is expected to boost investor sentiment and remove a drag on the world economy.

See here: Bank of America sees global GDP growth increasing to 3.2% in 2020, from 3.1% in 2019. That’s based on an assumption that “the US and China will reach a partial trade deal in the next few weeks or months.”

The bank acknowledges that nothing is certain. “While a deal is our base case, we cannot rule out the risk of a breakdown in negotiations,” strategists warned clients. “We still see a wide gap in trust between the two sides.”

But if US President Donald Trump delays a deal until after the 2020 presidential election — as he threatened to do in London on Tuesday — it’s safe to say that hundreds of pages of annual Wall Street forecasts will quickly become outdated.

The latest: Bloomberg reports that despite the noise this week, the United States and China are moving closer to a trade deal. Recent legislation supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong is unlikely to be a major barrier, the outlet reports, citing a person familiar with Beijing’s thinking.

Investor insight: US stocks are higher in premarket trading following the Bloomberg report. Yet the VIX, a measure of market volatility, remains elevated — up roughly 30% in the past week. With less then two weeks to go before December 15, when the next round of US tariffs on Chinese goods is set to take effect, the pressure is on.

Google’s co-founders are leaving the C-suite

More than 20 years after launching Google in a Menlo Park garage, Larry Page and Sergey Brin are shedding their executive roles at parent company Alphabet.

The shakeup: Page and Brin will step down as CEO and president, respectively, of Alphabet, the company announced Tuesday. Sundar Pichai, the current Google CEO and a longtime exec, will take over as the top boss of Alphabet in addition to his current role.

The cofounders will continue to serve on Alphabet’s board of directors, my CNN Business colleague Kaya Yurieff reports. They also maintain voting control over the business, which locks in their ability to exert influence, with or without their executive titles.

“We’ve never been ones to hold on to management roles when we think there’s a better way to run the company,” they wrote in a letter. “And Alphabet and Google no longer need two CEOs and a President.”

Some essential background: The shuffle comes at a time when Google faces mounting scrutiny. Regulators and politicians in the United States and Europe are interrogating the company on its size, data privacy practices and broad social impact. Page, once the face of the company, has largely withdrawn from public view.

Over to you, Sundar.

On-demand apps get less love from VC firms

Ride hailing and food delivery apps have long been the darlings of the startup world. Now, venture capital firms are taking a step back.

VC funding for so-called “on-demand” companies fell 22% for the 12 months through September, according to an analysis from Goldman Sachs. The slowdown comes after VC firms ploughed $87 billion into such startups between 2014 and 2018.

Following the Uber and Lyft IPOs, investor attention is mostly “on similar companies in Asia” such as Southeast Asia’s Grab and Gojek, per Goldman.

Meanwhile, funding for other parts of the startup universe is skyrocketing. Goldman points to a 288% rise in VC money for companies involved in automotive lidar, a technology seen as crucial for launching self-driving cars.

Up next

Campbell Soup reports earnings before US markets open. Slack follows after the close.

Also today →

▸ The ADP private employment report for November arrives at 8:15 a.m. ET.

▸ That’s followed at 10 a.m. ET by the November ISM Non-Manufacturing Index, which tracks the US services sector.

Coming tomorrow: Saudi Aramco prices shares ahead of its IPO. Can it pull off the biggest public market debut ever, and who’s buying the stock?

CNN

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