sold off once again, but strategist Bob Doll said a bear market is not necessarily in the cards.
“I do not think we’ll enter bear market territory, assuming that’s defined as 20 percent (decline), but needless to say the only way we can avoid that is if the price of oil stops going down and the dollar stops going up, because those two things were the cause of the decline in earnings expectations all year last year,” Nuveen Asset Management’s chief equity strategist told CNBC’s “Worldwide Exchange.”
Crude futures sank more than 5 percent Friday to dip back below $30 per barrel, a level many viewed as improbable just months ago. Unless oil prices recover, fears about credit issues will take hold, said Doll.
The energy industry is estimated to account for about 15 to 20 percent of the high-yield debt market, which has raised fears that a string of defaults could spark contagion.
Doll speculated that the current equity sell-off is being accelerated by abnormal selling by sovereign wealth funds at a time when many corporations are in their quiet periods before earnings, and therefore, not buying back shares of their own stock.
Still, stock markets are fundamentally concerned about growth and earnings in the United States, as well as whether the country will import deflation from China, Doll said. “They’re the things that are ganging up and causing people to say, ‘Let me sell now and ask some questions later.'”
The Shanghai composite ended Friday’s trading down 3.5 percent in bear market territory. Meanwhile, losses on Japan’s Nikkei 225 brought its 2016 losses to nearly 10 percent.
Also Friday, widely followed market watcher Dennis Gartman said a bear market has already set in. He called Thursday’s stock market rally nothing more than a dead cat bounce.
“I think it began globally last May. I think it only became obvious in the United States over the course of the last several weeks. I think yesterday was nothing more than a modest correction, and I’m afraid prices are heading lower still,” the publisher of The Gartman Letter told “Worldwide Exchange.”
In this environment, he said, there are only three positions to have: really bearish and short of stocks, modestly bearish and short, or neutral. At present, the public should be neutral and holding cash, he said.
“Cash is the best place of all right now,” he said.
Gartman said investors should also consider holding a little good and should own it in euro terms because the dollar is likely to continue rising against the European currency.
Doll, however, said he was “nibbling” at beaten-up health care and technology stocks amid the sell-off.
“If a company has good unit growth, doesn’t need pricing power, if the company has positive free cash flow and gets most of its earnings here from the U.S. and is away from the [natural] resource patch, we think those companies in the long run will look like reasonable buys at this point,” he said.
Doll added he’s not looking to foreign equity markets, saying the rising dollar and falling commodity prices make the United States looker like the safer bet.