Merrill Lynch Analysts Boost 2013 Target For S&P 500 Index To 1,750

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A trader looks up at his screen as he works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shortly before the closing of the market in New York, July 11, 2013. The S&P 500 index and the Dow industrials closed on Thursday at record highs, a day after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the U.S. central bank will keep a loose monetary policy for some time to lower the unemployment rate.

Gunning for higher annual earnings growth, Bank of America Merrill Lynch (NYSE:BAC) upped its 2013 target for the S&P 500 Index to 1,750 from 1,600 on Monday.

The index closed Friday at a record high of 1,680.19, inching past the initial 1,600 target, which was first surpassed in May.

Friday closed a third week of market gains, buoyed in part by higher-than-expected second-quarter earnings at JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) and Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC).

“While the decline in the equity risk premium has been more than twice what we expected, we think it is justified by diminished tail risks, positive surprises in the U.S. economy and, as expected, a continued decline in earnings volatility,” analysts at the bank wrote. “Thus, our new target is largely driven by our Fair Value model, where we lowered our year-end ERP forecast from 600 [basis points] to 475 [basis points], partially offset by a 50 [basis point] increase to the normalized real risk-free rate.”

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