Widely followed investor Howard Marks says the stock market rebound is not reflecting reality

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Howard Marks, Co-Chairman, Oaktree Capital.

David A. Grogan | CNBC

Billionaire investor Howard Marks said there is a sharp disconnect between the stock market and the reality the world is facing amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“We’re only down 15% from the all-time high of Feb. 19,” Marks, co-founder of Oaktree Capital Management, said Monday on CNBC’s “Halftime Report.” But “it seems to me the world is more than 15% screwed up.”

The S&P 500 has rallied more than 30% from an intraday low set on March 23, retracing more than half of its fall from record levels into a bear market. As of Monday, the broader market index was down 15.6% from its record.

That rally was sparked in part by encouraging data on the coronavirus, which showed the number of new daily cases peaking globally. Unprecedented stimulus from the Federal Reserve and U.S. lawmakers also helped stocks off their late-March lows.

However, such rallies are characteristic of a bear market, Marks said. He also noted that, historically, the market has followed up such moves higher with tumbles into lower lows.

“It took seven years to get back to the 2000 highs in 2007,” Marks said. “It took 5½ years to get back to the 2007 highs in late 2012. So, is it really appropriate that, given all the bad news in the world today, we should get back to the highs in only three months? That seems inappropriately positive.”

More than 2.4 million coronavirus cases have been confirmed globally, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. In the U.S. alone, more than 760,000 cases have been confirmed.

The outbreak has already taken a massive toll on the economy. More than 20 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits over a four-week period, data from the Labor Department shows. U.S. retail sales had their biggest one-month fall on record in March.

“People are traumatized, and not just because of the performance of their stocks,” Marks said. “Everybody’s life is hugely changed.”

However, Marks added that people are “overestimating” how much different life will be in five years, given how short the market’s memory tends to be.

Marks is one of the most followed investors on Wall Street, with his memos to investors being widely read across the financial industry. 

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