The world’s biggest stock bear says you shouldn’t be fooled by the market’s rebound — and explains why we’re still doomed to lose another 50%

The world’s biggest stock bear says you shouldn’t be fooled by the market’s rebound — and explains why we’re still doomed to lose another 50%

  • John Hussman — the outspoken investor and former professor who’s been predicting a stock crash — briefly turned bullish on the market following its Christmas Eve sell-off.
  • But Hussman refuses to get caught up in the hype surrounding the market’s rebound. He explains why equities are still doomed to lose 50% from current levels.

Thestock market‘s pre-Christmas disaster was so severe that it did the unthinkable: It made reknowned market bearJohn Hussmana bull, if only very briefly.

After equities turned in their worst Christmas Eve on record, Hussman published ablog postcalling market conditions “oversold and highly compressed.” With stocks having absorbed such a violent downward move, he argued that they were spring-loaded for a temporary surge.

“While we don’t presently observe conditions to indicate a ‘buying opportunity’ or a ‘bottom’ from a full-cycle standpoint, we do observe conditions that are permissive of a scorching market rebound, even if it only turns out to be the ‘fast, furious, prone to failure’ variety,” Hussman said on Dec. 26.

Sure enough, that rebound transpired almost immediately. TheDow Jones industrial averagespiked more than 1,000 points the day after Christmas, itsbiggest single-day increaseof all time. Hussman’s prediction was correct, and the index is up more than 6% in the period since he made it.

So does this mark the end of Hussman’s notorious doomsaying? Has the market’s most notorious skeptic changed his tune?

Don’t get your hopes up — Hussman is still expecting far deeper carnage in equities. He argues that the turbulent pre-Christmas was simply a harbinger of more difficult times to come.

“Given the obscene valuations that the market reached at its highs, we would view a market decline to 1,192 on the S&P 500 to be a fairly run-of-the-mill cycle completion,” Hussman said.

That amounts to a more than 50% decline from theS&P 500‘s current level, which is already 15% below record highs reached in September.

Hussman’s breaks down his bearish long-term view into three main considerations:

  1. Market internals are still “ragged and divergent”
  2. The most reliable valuation metrics — or those most highly correlated with forward 10- to 12-year market returns — “remain extremely elevated from the perspective of history and even of recent market cycles”
  3. Credit spreads are continuing to widen

In the end, even if the stock market’s near-term rally continues in earnest, Hussman thinks it would be foolish to turn fully bullish on the market. He doesn’t even think traders should consider removing hedges

“There is no certainty about a rebound, and we wouldn’t dream of removing our safety nets against a market decline that I continue to expect to draw the S&P 500 toward the 1,000 level by the completion of the cycle,” Hussman said.

Hussman’s track record

For the uninitiated, Hussman has repeatedly made headlines by predicting astock-market decline exceeding 60%and forecasting afull decade of negative equity returns. And as the stock market has continued to grind mostly higher, he’s persisted with his calls, undeterred.

But before you dismiss Hussman as a wonky perma-bear, consider his track record, which he breaks down in his latest blog post. Here are the arguments he lays out:

  • Predicted in March 2000 that tech stocks would plunge 83%, then the tech-heavyNasdaq 100index lost an “improbably precise” 83% during a period from 2000 to 2002
  • Predicted in 2000 that the S&P 500 would likely see negative total returns over the following decade, which it did
  • Predicted in April 2007 that the S&P 500 could lose 40%, then it lost 55% in the subsequent collapse from 2007 to 2009

In the end, the more evidence Hussman unearths around the stock market’s unsustainable conditions, the more worried investors should get. Sure, there may still be returns to be realized in this market cycle, but at what point does the mounting risk of a crash become too unbearable?

That’s a question investors will have to answer themselves. And one that Hussman will clearly keep exploring in the interim.

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