Richard Russell: Downturn Will Be 'Vicious'

by: Cullen Roche

Despite the incredible 60% rally and chatter of a new secular bull market many investors remain highly skeptical of the equity markets. David Rosenberg recently released his 10 reasons why the rally is over and Meredith Whitney says the market is again at risk of a downturn. But there is perhaps no one more skeptical of the rally than the great Richard Russell, author of the Dow Theory Letters.

Russell continues to believe we are in a secular bear market and currently believes we could be in a topping process preceding a “vicious” downturn:

I haven’t liked the stock market. I can’t tell with any certainty at this time, but this bear market rally could be in the process of topping out. If it is, I think we’re in for a vicious collapse. Remember, rallies in a primary bear market are movements against the main force or tide of the market. In other words, during a rally, the bear forces have been held back. When a bear market rally breaks up, the market tends to make up for lost time. That means the declines tend to be rapid, violent and vicious. As I said, I can’t tell with certainty whether the advance from the March low is breathing its last. But if it is — watch out; it’s not going to be pretty.

Perhaps the scariest facet of another potential leg down is the ramifications with regards to government and monetary policy. Russell believes a substantial downturn below the March lows would mean the Fed policy has completely failed:

By the way, IF the advance from the March low is topping out, here are the implications. It would mean that all the Fed’s machinations and efforts to halt the deflation have gone to waste. Furthermore, if the March lows are violated (and nobody believes they will be) we will probably be in the final and most costly and frightening leg of this bear market.

While I agree with Russell that we are in the middle of a secular de-leveraging bear, I have a more difficult time believing that the market is about to revisit the March lows any time soon. In my opinion, the panic phase of the downturn is behind us. What’s ahead is likely to be more similar to what Japan experienced in the mid to late 90’s – a series of economic starts and stops that never materialize into the secular bull everyone is looking for. Bernanke’s policies will fail just as Greenspan’s same approach failed, but they are unlikely to fail in the spectacular fashion that would help scholars, investors and the American public wake up to the backwards approach of the current Federal Reserve system.

Source: Dow Theory Letters