Exactly three weeks before the Aug. 24 plunge, short-seller Bill Fleckenstein gave a sobering warning about the state of U.S. stocks. Now that the Federal Reserve has once again decided not to raise interest rates, Fleckenstein, who runs Fleckenstein Capital, says markets could be setting up for a "pretty nasty decline."
In his view, Thursday's decision by the Federal Reserve to keep rates unchanged is yet another sign that the Fed and the stock market are locked in a dangerous dance.
"The market is trapped because the Fed is trapped," Fleckenstein said, in an interview on CNBC's "Fast Money." "The Fed's policies drove the stock market to 2,100 on the S&P, they haven't printed any new money in a year. The market's hung on, and now it's starting to deteriorate."
Fleckenstein noted a distinction between easing policies and interest rates that may have been lost on some market participants. "Not hiking isn't the same as more free money," he said, adding that "the big problem that we face, despite the fact that everyone is in love with the Fed, is that the Fed is the problem."
That problem, he said, has created a condition where stocks could be heading for big losses. "Everyone thinks the market is going to right itself," he said. "My view is the market's going to head down and it continues to be uniquely vulnerable, so I think the stage is still set for a pretty nasty decline."
In his early-August call that's since become widely regarded, Fleckenstein warned, "The market is uniquely crash-prone." He contended that the conclusion of the Fed's quantitative easing program had left the market "weak," "tenuous," and "on its own."