Stock market: more bears ahead?

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Weeks after ‘Big Short’ investor Michael Burry said the “market silliness” is back, famed fund manager Jeremy Grantham has issued a warning to “prepare for an epic finale” to the market cycle. He argues that the current “superbubble” in asset prices hasn’t deflated yet and appears to be dangerously close to its “final act.” Some have compared Grantham and Burry to “a broken clock” that is right twice a day, especially since they have been issuing “superbubble” warnings since the pandemic began, but the two have made serious money off bubbles in Japan in the late 1980s, the dot-com era and the U.S. housing market crash in 2008.

“One of those features is the bear-market rally after the initial derating stage of the decline but before the economy has clearly begun to deteriorate, as it always has when superbubbles burst,” Grantham wrote in a fresh research note. “This, in all three previous cases, recovered over half the market’s initial losses, luring unwary investors back just in time for the market to turn down again, only more viciously, and the economy to weaken. This summer’s rally has so far perfectly fit the pattern.”

“My bet is that we’re going to have a fairly tough time of it economically and financially before this is washed through the system. What I don’t know is: Does that get out of hand like it did in the ’30s, is it pretty well contained as it was in 2000, or is it somewhere in the middle? The U.S. stock market remains very expensive and an increase in inflation like the one this year has always hurt multiples, although more slowly than normal this time. But now the fundamentals have also started to deteriorate enormously and surprisingly: Between COVID in China, war in Europe, food and energy crises, record fiscal tightening, and more, the outlook is far grimmer than could have been foreseen in January.”

Outlook: Despite the warnings, an aggressive Fed tightening cycle and worries about the economy, most American retirement savers haven’t made changes to their portfolios. Only 5% of 401(k) and 403(b) investors shifted their asset allocations during the second quarter, according to Fidelity Investments, and the majority of those investors only made one switch to more conservative assets. Set it and forget it? Don’t time the market?