Michael Burry rose to fame after he made a big bet against the U.S. housing bubble before its collapse spawned the Great Financial Crisis of 2008. His highly profitable investment was documented in Michael Lewis’s 2010 book, The Big Short, and a subsequent movie of the same name where he was portrayed by Christian Bale.
Now, the 51-year-old runs hedge fund Scion Asset Management, and unlike many of his superstar peers, he typically keeps his investing strategy under wraps, only occasionally tweeting market musings from a personal Twitter account. But lately, Burry’s been doing a lot of musing.
“This time is different,” he wrote in a cryptic tweet on Tuesday that included a chart showing the roughly 40% stock market drop—and multiple bear market rallies—that occurred during the dotcom bubble of the early 2000s.
Burry also plotted the steep decline in the Federal Reserve’s benchmark interest rate during the dotcom era, hinting at the stark contrast between the Fed’s current rate trajectory.
After the S&P 500 dropped roughly 20% in 2022, the index has rallied over 7% so far this year amid investor optimism that Fed rate cuts could be on the way and a “soft landing” is possible despite consistent recession predictions from Wall Street. But Burry has argued for years that stocks are overvalued compared with historical levels, even predicting in May that the S&P 500 could sink as far as 1,862—or 55% from Tuesday’s closing price.
In the chart Burry shared, from 2000 to 2001 the S&P 500 experienced a strong bear market rally after the Fed cut rates in September of 2001, leading some investors to believe stocks were set to soar. But the rally proved to be short-lived, and the bear market didn’t end until more than a year later.
Burry’s tweet seems to hint that hopes for the stock market’s continuing upward trajectory are misplaced, and that history is repeating itself here. And even if the Fed does cut rates—which at this point it has no plans to do—Burry believes the latest rise in markets will fade.
The hedge funder has argued throughout 2022 that U.S. consumers are spending down their savings, high inflation is here to stay, corporate profits are declining, and an “extended multiyear recession” is on the way. And just last week, before the Federal Reserve announced its eighth interest rate hike in under a year, he warned investors that stocks were set to fall.
“Sell,” he wrote in an ominous one-word tweet, before quickly deleting his account when the S&P 500 soared nearly 3% in the following two days.
Burry’s consistent doomsday predictions—and mixed track record—have led some to argue he’s entering boy-who-cried-wolf territory, with Elon Musk calling him a “broken clock” in November 2021. But the hedge funder isn’t alone in warning that investors could be falling into a bear market trap.
Morgan Stanley’s CIO and chief U.S. equity strategist Mike Wilson and JPMorgan Chase’s chief equity strategist Marko Kolanovic have both warned that the S&P 500 is set to fall in the first half of this year, arguing the Fed will keep rates higher for longer and corporate earnings will drop.
“The Fed doesn’t have any intention to cut now, so I think things have to get worse before they can get better,” Kolanovic told CNBC last month, adding that he expects stocks will drop 10% or more before the bear market is over.
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