Bearish Case “Short of Substance”, Birinyi Says

Laszlo Birinyi, who warned about financial stocks in the summer of 2008 and turned very bullish on the market not long after it bottomed in 2009, says he isn’t buying the bears’ arguments today.

“I think the bearish case is short of substance, the defensive thesis suspect and that selling has been overdone,” Birinyi writes in a column for the Financial Times. “There are some attractive — if not cheap stocks available. We are reviewing and pruning weaker positions and stocks as well as being more judicious in our purchases. Being bullish on stocks is probably a step down from being bullish on the market but, as economist John Maynard Keynes once said, when things change, I change my mind.”

Birinyi says he thinks as much as five percentage points of the market’s recent decline were due to fund liquidation selling. “I think it unlikely that declines in stocks such as Ralph Lauren, Wynn Casinos, Chipotle Mexican and other strong performers is related to corporate developments or fundamentals,” he says. And that suggests the downward pressure on stocks was more likely temporary than long-term.

As for those who point to the 10-year “Shiller” price/earnings ratio as evidence the market is overvalued and stocks should be sold, Birinyi responds, “Sell what?” Had you used that metric as a market-timing tool, he says, you’d have missed out on some of the market’s biggest rallies over the past couple decades.