Investors need to be cautious and ‘play defense’ in this bear market rally, Wells Fargo CIO Darrell Cronk told Bloomberg.

Stocks won’t exit the bear market until the Federal Reserve’s last interest rate hike, according to Wells Fargo.
Investors need to be cautious despite major indices’ recent gains, CIO Darrell Cronk told Bloomberg TV.
“This very much looks like a bear market rally… you’ve got to play defense,” Cronk said.

It’s time for investors to get defensive and consider jumping out of stocks, which look caught in the middle of a bear-market rally, according to a Wells Fargo investment chief.

Darrell Cronk told Bloomberg TV he’s skeptical about how well equities will perform over the rest of 2022, even though the S&P 500 has climbed more than 15% since hitting a low for the year in June.

“This is the question: Is this a bear market rally or the start of a new bull?” Cronk, CIO for Wells Fargo Wealth and Investment Management, said on Friday. “This to us very much looks like a bear market rally.”

“People forget that as bear markets get older, the bear market rallies get larger. This is the largest one we’ve seen, we’ve had six S&P 500 rallies during this bear of 7% or greater.”

He believes the S&P 500’s recent rally isn’t sustainable, given the US benchmark has failed since April to break above its 200-day moving average. If stocks rise or fall through this key resistance level, it’s seen as a change in long-term direction.

“The fact that we’ve failed off the 200-day to us still says that you’ve got to play defense,” Cronk said — suggesting they pivot away from stocks, and into less risky and volatile markets such as bonds or cash. 

The Wells Fargo CIO said bear markets don’t end three things happen: housing market forward indicators hit a bottom, earnings estimates fall significantly or trough, and the Federal Reserve is on the verge of stopping its interest rate hikes.

“You’ve got to get closer to the Fed being at or within sight of their last interest rate hike,” he said. “We think we’re still probably at least six months away from that.”

“So, bear market rally — play defense here from a risk standpoint,” Cronk said.

Markets have gained thanks to some investors’ expectations that the Fed will pivot to start cutting interest rates soon. But Wall Street strategists have warned that the US central bank’s current hiking cycle won’t end until 2023.

Analysts at Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and HSBC all said last week that the Fed will likely continue to hike until nominal rates are at 4%, around 150 basis points above their current level.

Read more: Wall Street is warning investors not to try to time the bottom in stocks — with the bear market potentially dragging on into 2023

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