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Morgan Stanley’s Wilson says this is a bear bounce and lower lows are ahead

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Markets could climb further over the next several weeks, but Morgan Stanley’s Mike Wilson warned investors that any bounce in the bear market would be temporary. A sustained comeback is “hard to justify” given the growing concerns around earnings revisions, Wilson said in a Monday note. The strategist expects that falling commodities prices could be a drag on revisions, especially as earnings season arrives next month. “[We] continue to believe any near term rally is nothing more than a bear market bounce with lower lows ahead,” Wilson wrote. “The only question is whether we have a soft landing (base case) in which the S & P 500 bottoms near 3400-3500 or we have a recession (bear case) in which the index falls toward 3000.” Stocks posted a big comeback rally last week from this year’s declines. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 5.4%, capping the first positive week since May. The S & P 500 increased 6.5%, and the Nasdaq Composite gained 7.5%. The major averages were little changed in Monday morning trading. Traders expected equities were rallying off deeply oversold conditions, as recession fears continued to grow on Wall Street. Falling bond yields and oil prices also boosted those gains. In the near term, stocks could continue to get a lift, especially as pension funds rebalance their holdings this week for the quarter-end. Morgan Stanley approximates that there is roughly $25 billion to $30 billion of global equity demand, with about $15 billion to $20 billion in U.S. equity demand. A rebound could mean the S & P 500 would gain 5% to 7% from Friday’s closing price, which would put the broader market index in the 4,100-4,200 range. A sizable rally from the bear market would specifically benefit the Nasdaq, which has greater exposure to longer-duration interest rate-sensitive equities. Still, Wilson warned that temporary rallies are not historically out of the ordinary, especially for bear markets that eventually end in a recession. “In no way are we suggesting the bear market is over or that earnings estimates won’t have to come down,” Wilson wrote. “Instead, we are simply being realistic about the viciousness of bear markets and their ability to confound all market participants at times, even the bears.” Traders are expecting continued volatility in markets this week.

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