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Noah Zivitz

Managing Editor, BNN Bloomberg


It's not easy being a contrarian at the best of times. And these are far from the best of times, as recession fears crowd out the market. But BMO Capital Markets Chief Investment Strategist Brian Belski is willing to stick his neck out.
"People are worried about a recession and typically I found in my long career, that when everyone's talking about one certain thing, you want to go the other way," he said in an interview Tuesday after the closing bells on another tumultuous trading session that saw the S&P 500 fall almost 2.2 per cent intraday before regaining lost ground to close with a small gain.
Again, recession fears were front and centre, which sent traders to the perceived safety of the U.S. dollar and sent West Texas Intermediate crude down as much as 10.1 per cent, which pushed the benchmark commodity price below US$100 per barrel.
Belski pointed to robust employment levels as one reason for his conviction: in Canada, unemployment fell to a record-low of 5.1 per cent in May, and Bay Street expects it to stay steady at that level when Statistics Canada releases its June Labour Force Survey on Friday. In the U.S., unemployment is sitting at 3.6 per cent.
Belski also said he thinks inflation could fall much faster than most people think, and that the upcoming earnings season could surprise to the upside.  
"We continue to believe that U.S. companies have set themselves up to under-promise and over-deliver, and we do believe that the consumer remains excessively strong," he said.
Belski's conviction puts him at odds with gloomy warnings that have been ringing out as investors, economists, and strategists question the ability of central banks to execute a soft landing as they hike interest rates to wrestle down inflation that is running far ahead of their desired levels.
"It seems to me — again, in the realm of probabilities and risk assessment — that this recession is really just starting now," said Rosenberg Research President David Rosenberg in an interview Monday.
Rosenberg, who famously predicted the U.S. housing market crash that led to the 2008-2009 financial crisis, said the stock market usually bottoms somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters of the way into a recession — which suggests there's plenty more downside to come. Through the close of trading Tuesday, the S&P 500 had tumbled 19.6 per cent this year, while the S&P/TSX Composite Index was down 11.3 per cent.
Rosenberg cautioned the "recession hit" still hasn't been seen in earnings or analysts' estimates, which he said could be the trigger for the next 20 per cent downside in the equity market.
"Impossible to really know in terms of magnitude how bad this bear market is going to be. I think it's roughly half over," he said.
Belski sees the investing landscape differently. He said Tuesday he's standing by his call for the TSX to hit 24,000 points this year, which implies almost 30 per cent upside from Tuesday's close.
"Those people that that want to be defensive, should have been defensive in February and March," he said.
"Typically and historically, when there's a lot of fear in the street, that is when the time is to be bullish now. Be that as it may, it's been a humbling year for us. We've been wrong because we've been very bullish because we look out longer term. I still believe over the next year or two, stocks will be significantly higher."