Look for stocks to lose 30% from here, says strategist David Rosenberg. And don't even think about turning bullish until 2024.

Last updated: 07.02.2023
There’s nothing right now in my collection of metrics telling me that we’re anywhere close to a bottom. He suggests owning bonds, gold, consumer staples and the Dogs of the Dow.
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 SPX, -0.61% 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.
When you’re attempting to be reasonable and come up with a sensible multiple for this market, given where the risk-free interest rate is now, and we can generously assume a roughly 15 price-earnings multiple. Then you slap that on a recession earning environment, and you’re left with the S&P 500 bottoming out somewhere close to 2900.
The closer we get to that, the more I will be recommending allocations to the stock market. If I was saying 3200 before, there is a reasonable outcome that can lead you to something below 3000. At 3200 to tell you the truth I would plan on getting a little more positive.
This is just pure mathematics. All the stock market is at any point is earnings multiplied by the multiple you want to apply to that earnings stream. That multiple is sensitive to interest rates. All we’ve seen is Act I — multiple compression. We haven’t yet seen the market multiple dip below the long-run mean, which is closer to 16. You’ve never had a bear market bottom with the multiple above the long-run average. That just doesn’t happen.
Rosenberg: The stock market bottoms 70% of the way into a recession and 70% of the way into the easing cycle. What’s more important is that the Fed will pause, and then will pivot. That is going to be a 2023 story.
The Fed will shift its views as circumstances change. The S&P 500 low will be south of 3000 and then it’s a matter of time. The Fed will pause, the markets will have a knee-jerk positive reaction you can trade. Then the Fed will start to cut interest rates, and that usually takes place six months after the pause. Then there will be a lot of giddiness in the market for a short time. When the market bottoms, it’s the mirror image of when it peaks. The market peaks when it starts to see the recession coming. The next bull market will start once investors begin to see the recovery.
But the recession’s just starting. The market bottoms typically in the sixth or seventh inning of the recession, deep into the Fed easing cycle when the central bank has cut interest rates enough to push the yield curve back to a positive slope. That is many months away. We have to wait for the pause, the pivot, and for rate cuts to steepen the yield curve. That will be a late 2023, early 2024 story.