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Jonathan Burton’s Life Savings: Look for stocks to lose 30% from here, says strategist David Rosenberg. And don’t even think about turning bullish until 2024.

David Rosenberg, the former chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch, has been saying for almost a year that the Fed means business and investors should take the U.S. central bank’s effort to fight inflation both seriously and literally.

Rosenberg, now president of Toronto-based Rosenberg Research & Associates Inc., expects investors will face more pain in financial markets in the months to come.

“The recession’s just starting,” Rosenberg said in an interview with MarketWatch. “The market bottoms typically in the sixth or seventh inning of the recession, deep into the Fed easing cycle.” Investors can expect to endure more uncertainty leading up to the time — and it will come — when the Fed first pauses its current run of interest rate hikes and then begins to cut.

Fortunately for investors, the Fed’s pause and perhaps even cuts will come in 2023, Rosenberg predicts. Unfortunately, he added, the S&P 500

could drop 30% from its current level before that happens. Said Rosenberg: “You’re left with the S&P 500 bottoming out somewhere close to 2,900.”

At that point, Rosenberg added, stocks will look attractive again. But that’s a story for 2024.

In this recent interview, which has been edited for length and clarity, Rosenberg offered a playbook for investors to follow this year and to prepare for a more bullish 2024. Meanwhile, he said, as they wait for the much-anticipated Fed pivot, investors should make their own pivot to defensive sectors of the financial markets — including bonds, gold and dividend-paying stocks.

MarketWatch: So many people out there are expecting a recession. But stocks have performed well to start the year. Are investors and Wall Street out of touch?

Rosenberg: Investor sentiment is out of line; the household sector is still enormously overweight equities. There is a disconnect between how investors feel about the outlook and how they’re actually positioned. They feel bearish but they’re still positioned bullishly, and that is a classic case of cognitive dissonance. We also have a situation where there is a lot of talk about recession and about how this is the most widely expected recession of all time, and yet the analyst community is still expecting corporate earnings growth to be positive in 2023.

In a plain-vanilla recession, earnings go down 20%. We’ve never had a recession where earnings were up at all. The consensus is that we are going to see corporate earnings expand in 2023. So there’s another glaring anomaly. We are being told this is a widely expected recession, and yet it’s not reflected in earnings estimates – at least not yet.

There’s nothing right now in my collection of metrics telling me that we’re anywhere close to a bottom. 2022 was the year where the Fed tightened policy aggressively and that showed up in the marketplace in a compression in the price-earnings multiple from roughly 22 to around 17. The story in 2022 was about what the rate hikes did to the market multiple; 2023 will be about what those rate hikes do to corporate earnings.

“ My strongest conviction is the 30-year Treasury bond. ”

At some point, we’re going to have to have some sort of positive shock that will arrest the decline. The cycle is the cycle and what dominates the cycle are interest rates. At some point we get the recessionary pressures, inflation melts, the Fed will have successfully reset asset values to more normal levels, and we will be in a different monetary policy cycle by the second half of 2024 that will breathe life into the economy and we’ll be off to a recovery phase, which the market will start to discount later in 2023. Nothing here is permanent. It’s about interest rates, liquidity and the yield curve that has played out before.

MarketWatch: Where do you advise investors to put their money now, and why?

Rosenberg: My strongest conviction is the 30-year Treasury bond
The Fed will cut rates and you’ll get the biggest decline in yields at the short end. But in terms of bond prices and the total return potential, it’s at the long end of the curve. Bond yields always go down in a recession. Inflation is going to fall more quickly than is generally anticipated. Recession and disinflation are powerful forces for the long end of the Treasury curve.

As the Fed pauses and then pivots — and this Volcker-like tightening is not permanent — other central banks around the world are going to play catch up, and that is going to undercut the U.S. dollar
There are few better hedges against a U.S. dollar reversal than gold. On top of that, cryptocurrency has been exposed as being far too volatile to be part of any asset mix. It’s fun to trade, but crypto is not an investment. The crypto craze — fund flows directed to bitcoin

and the like — drained the gold price by more than $200 an ounce.

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