Bob Doll: No bear market this year

Bob Doll of Nuveen says it's not likely stocks are heading into a bear market this year.

He says it's very much like August when the market was nervous that Chinese authorities did not have a grip on policy and markets were reflecting that.

"If a bear market means the market is going down 20 percent, I don't think we're going to be down 20 percent this year. Could we be down? Yes. But I think it's more likely we will be down modestly, " he said.

In August, the sentiment on China was "It doesn't know what it's doing. They're having technical issues around the markets. Their currency is falling. There's the unanticipated devaluation. Commodity prices were going down, and people were concerned they weren't able to control it, and the world would be in a deflationary spiral," said Doll, senior portfolio manager and chief equity strategist at Nuveen.

Doll said the probability of that is not zero but it's not likely either, but he does expect Chinese authorities to take some action that will ultimately calm markets.

China did suspend its circuit-breakers system that halted stocks just minutes into the session twice this week because of the plunge in prices. U.S. stocks reversed some of their early losses after that report.

Doll's S&P target is 2150 and his earnings expectation is $124 for S&P 500 companies.

"The biggest problem for the stock market in 2015 was the decline in earnings on the back of weaker oil and a strong dollar. If that continues, we're not going to have a good year," Doll said. But he does expect both to stabilize.

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Doll says for the first time in almost 40 years, U.S. equities could see a single-digit percentage change for the second year in a row.

The S&P 500 has had a rocky start to the year, and is down 3.4 percent so far since 2016 began. The S&P was off nearly 1 percent in early trading Thursday, at 1,972.

In the summer, the S&P fell 11 percent before recovering, but it has never returned to the all-time highs set in May.

Doll released his 10 predictions for 2016 on Thursday, and they include a forecast that Republicans will retain their majority in Congress and also take the White House.

1. U.S. real GDP remains below 3 percent, and nominal GDP below 5 percent for an unprecedented 10th year in a row.

2. U.S. Treasury rates rise for a second year, but high-yield spreads fall.

3. S&P 500 earnings make limited headway as consumer spending advances are partially offset by oil, the dollar and wage rates.

4. For the first time in almost 40 years, U.S. equities experience a single-digit percentage change for the second year in a row.

5. Stocks outperform bonds for the fifth consecutive year.

6. Non-U.S. equities outperform domestic equities, while non-U.S. fixed income outperforms domestic fixed income.

7. Information technology, financials and telecommunication services outperform energy, materials and utilities.

8. Geopolitics, terrorism and cyberattacks continue to haunt investors but have little market impact.

9. The federal budget deficit rises in dollars and as a percentage of GDP for the first time in seven years.

10. Republicans retain the House and the Senate and capture the White House.