The big question in the market these days is, of course, whether the current rally is really the start of a new bull run, or if it is another bear market head fake. And two interesting, differing takes on the topic come from top strategists Barton Biggs and John Mauldin.
In a recent CNBC interview, hedge fund star Biggs says the rally could well be for real. As of mid-April, he saw 40 signs that the environment was starting to improve. Global manufacturing is improving, consumer demand is strengthening, new orders are up, and inventories have fallen to new lows, according to Biggs. “The classic economic recovery begins with new orders and output rising, spending stabilizing, and inventories falling,” he says.
Retail sales and housing continue to be a problem, but Biggs thinks that “this could be a cyclical bull market that takes us to 1050 or 1100 on the S&P.” The market, he says, is a very perceptive leading indicator. With signs of economic recovery beginning to sprout around the world, the market’s recent upswing may well be another example of the market serving as a leading economic indicator.
Mauldin, meanwhile, thinks this is a bear market rally, and says the idea that investors must buy now — before the economy rebounds — or else risk missing out on huge early bull market gains is “garbage. The stock market doesn’t always rally six months before [the economy rebounds].”
“Bull markets are big multi-decade things,” the money manager and well-known newsletter writer tells Yahoo! TechTicker, so take your time getting back into stocks. Mauldin contends that strong recent bank earnings are looking good because of changes in accounting rules, but the rest of corporate America’s earnings picture remains very unclear. “We don’t know what this new normal is going to look like,” he says. “I want to see earnings stabilize for a quarter, and then I can go, ‘phew’.” He fears more bad earnings surprises may be coming.
That being said, Mauldin sounds more cautious than bearish. He says he wouldn’t advise shorting the market at this point, given all the uncertainty.