Hedge Fund Guru: Stocks Best Choice in the Investment Neighborhood

Top hedge fund manager Leon Cooperman says he’s optimistic about the economy, and says a “tremendous number” of cheap stocks exist right now.

Cooperman tells CNBC that his economic optimism is based on three assumptions: that the U.S. isn’t going to become “another Japan”; that the European Central Bank will help financial institutions there the same way the Federal Reserve did in the U.S.; and that President Obama will move to the center. “We’re moving in the right direction,” he says, “and I think the signs are emerging that we’re … moving into a self-sustaining economic expansion.”

Cooperman says he’s optimistic on stocks, which he says are, at worst, “the best house in a bad neighborhood,” and which could be “the best house in a good neighborhood” if the U.S. deals with its fiscal troubles.

In 2011, he’s expecting the broader market to return between 8% and 15%. He likes several areas of the market, including energy plays, and some financials, HMOs, and auto stocks. “There’s a tremendous number of cheap stocks out there,” he says. One thing Cooperman says to keep an eye on, however: unemployment. He says job growth is key to the economic recovery.

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