Wednesday 9 July 2008

Bear Market -- be fearfull


July 8 (Bloomberg) -- Michael Steinhardt, the investment pioneer whose hedge funds returned more than 20 percent a year for almost three decades, said U.S. stocks will keep falling even as ''contrarian'' buy signals abound.

Record oil prices and the credit-market slump that spurred more than $400 billion in asset writedowns and loan losses at banks worldwide will prevent the market from rallying, Steinhardt, 67, said in a Bloomberg Television interview today. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index declined 19.99 percent from its October record through yesterday, just short of the 20 percent threshold of a so-called bear market.

''There are genuine, solid, fearful reasons for a bear market,'' Steinhardt said. ''I don't think we're at a bottom.'' He added, ''I can think of only one quick fix, which is a dramatic, substantial drop in the price of oil.''

Steinhardt was 19 when he started his Wall Street career as a securities analyst after graduating in 1960 from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. In 1967, he opened New York-based Steinhardt Management Co., which produced hedge-fund returns averaging 24 percent a year for the next 28 years.

He closed the firm in 1995 when it had $2.6 billion under management to pursue philanthropy. He is chairman of WisdomTree Investments Inc., a New York-based asset-management firm that offers exchange-traded funds.

'Inexplicable' Advance

Crude oil surged 88 percent in the past year and reached a record $145.85 a barrel on July 3. Some of that advance is sustainable, Steinhardt said.

''A lot of it's political, a lot of it is inexplicable, but I don't think oil at $100 a barrel is very difficult to imagine,'' he said. ''If there were a will in the key centers of power in this country to get the price of oil down, it would come down.''

The Federal Reserve, which cited rising oil prices last month after ending its most aggressive monetary easing in two decades, should raise interest rates ''a little bit'' to restrain inflation, which is on the verge of accelerating, Steinhardt said. Consumer prices in the U.S. climbed 4.2 percent in the year through May and probably rose at a 4.5 percent pace in June, according to a Bloomberg News survey of economists.

Rising bets against U.S. stocks and growing pessimism among investors, usually indicators that it's time to purchase shares, are giving a false buy signal, he said.

'This Time It's Different'

''There is rarely a moment such as this where as a contrarian, one sees so many reasons technically, stock market- wise to be bullish. I can't imagine a circumstance where a market is more available, more ripe for a rally than this one,'' Steinhardt said. Still, ''this time it's different,'' he added.

General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., airlines, banks, mortgage lenders and brokerages, ''companies and industries that heretofore had been sacrosanct,'' are in jeopardy amid higher inflation and slowing economic growth, he said. GM, the biggest U.S. automaker, retreated 72 percent for the Dow Jones Industrial Average's biggest loss since the measure's record high in October.

''It's an extraordinary phenomenon where that which was the heartland of America is now so, so sick and not easily vulnerable to improvement,'' Steinhardt added.

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