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Market Bull Run is Not Over (Yet): Barry Ritholtz

Bernice Napach
Daily Ticker

The stock market may finally be paying attention to market fundamentals, primarily the slowing global economy, from China and Japan in the East to Europe and the U.S. in the West.

Stocks have fallen for the past four out of five sessions. The S&P 500 (^GSPC) closed Thursday at 1,542, or 3% below its record high of just under 1,600, reached a week ago. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) also ended lower Thursday, at 14,537, down 2% from its record high of 14,865.

The recent decline in the stock market begs the question: Is the rally over or is this simply a correction in a bigger bull market?

The Daily Ticker put the question to Barry Ritholtz, the CEO and director of Equity Research at Fusion IQ. His answer essentially: not yet.

Related: U.S. Stock Market is 'Overvalued, Overbought and Overbullish': John Hussman

“This bull run will eventually end…[and] the best way to handle that trade is to wait for the market to tell you the run is over,” says Ritholtz. But it hasn’t said that yet, and is behaving instead as would be expected after a big bull run.

“When you have a market up as torridly as this one has been since QE4 was announced you to have to think there will be a little bit of a slowdown. You can’t grow 13% a quarter for very long,” says Ritholtz.

Ritholtz, who is also the creator of The Big Picture blog, studies the internal dynamics of the market for signs of where it’s heading, but those indicators are mixed.

Related: The Dow Will Surpass 16,000 This Year: Jeremy Siegel

“When you take a look at all the surveys, we’re somewhere in the middle,” says Ritholtz. "We’re not excessively bullish; we’re not excessively bearish.”

Among the mixed signals he sees: “Cash balances in individual investment accounts at 18-month highs,” suggesting investors have lots of money to pour into stocks when the time is right—a bullish signal. But he also sees “high bull/bear ratios,” suggesting that the buyers will take a backseat to sellers or simply sit out the market for a time--a neutral or bearish sign.

In the meantime, there are stocks and sectors that Ritholtz favors: dividend payers, value stocks over growth and health care and consumer staples stocks.

“Seventy thousand baby boomers retire every day,” says Ritholtz. “They’re huge consumers of biotech, pharmaceuticals, health care and hospital services.”

He suggests investors buy shares of a health care or biotech ETF. Among individual stocks he favor Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)—a health care and consumer staple play—and Pfizer (PFE) —a pharmaceutical company that Ritzholtz says could lead the sector.

“There are opportunities but make sure you’re not overpaying,” he advises.

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