Virtu Financial founder says stock market is 'one big opportunity right now'

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Virtu Financial founder Vincent Viola said Friday that the strength of the U.S. economy is a signal that now is a good time to buy stocks despite the recent sell-off. 

Viola told CNBC’s Scott Wapner on “Halftime Report” that the labor market showed that the U.S. economy was still strong.

“I am of the opinion that the marketplace is just one big opportunity right now,” Viola said. “Again, the sectors, that remains for the personal financial advisor. From my perspective, there are structural changes in the economy that are going to provide for long-term growth for more than one industry.”

The billionaire, whose firm is one of the world’s largest high frequency trading companies, said he thinks the market was poised for a pullback before the coronavirus started hitting the world economy.

“I think professional investors were sitting on top of a market that was sitting near all-time highs. I think we had a triggering event … markets always look for reasons to correct. We are one standard deviation off that high at this level. The marketplace will smoothen in terms of people’s anxiety.”

The stock market fell again on Friday, continuing a volatile two-week period that has brought the Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite Index more than 10% below their recent highs.

The Cboe Volatility Index, often called Wall Street’s “fear gauge,” briefly spiked above 50 on Friday. It has not closed above that level since 2009 during the financial January crisis. 

The U.S. has seen strong employment data this week, with weekly initial jobless claims falling and the payroll gains for February topping expectations. Neither of those reports would have captured any economic slowdown in the past week due to the coronavirus outbreak, however. 

Viola said he thought the volatility and the overall economic conditions could mean that the correction would be over soon and not last “a period of three-to-four-to-five months.”

“I think we’re in very, very sound buying territory. That does not mean it’s not going to be a bumpy ride,” Viola said.

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