There are no reasons to be bearish about the U.S. stock market, value investor Bill Miller told CNBC on Wednesday.
The chairman and chief investment officer of Baltimore-based LMM Investments ran through a list of positives for equities, including moderate economic growth, low interest rates and low inflation. "But we also want people to take money out of stocks because they hate them, so they're cheap," he said in a "Squawk Box" interview. "That's exactly the environment we have today."
LMM, a partially owned subsidiary of Legg Mason, has $2.9 billion of assets under management.
If investors really start pulling money out of bonds and putting it into equities, Miller said, "my concern is the stock market starts going up 20 or 30 percent a year like it did in the late 1990s. And then after two or three years you can't make money on anything. I'm much more worried about that than the fact that the stock market won't go up."
By not raising interest rates in nine years, the Federal Reserve has essentially given investors a "free lunch," Miller said, shrugging off concerns that near-zero percent rates for so long have fostered dangerous risk-taking and asset inflation.
Miller is also the portfolio manager of the Legg Mason Opportunity Trust fund, which was down 3.23 percent for the year as Sept. 30, about half the decline of the S&P 500 in that period. Over the past 12 months, the fund was up 3.45 percent. The three-year return was 25.65 percent, more than double the S&P.
Appearing with Miller, Brian Rogers, chairman and CIO of T. Rowe Price, said there are no real alternatives to investing in stocks, because money markets and treasury bonds are delivering next to nothing.
"There are really a lot of high quality companies selling at good valuations, good dividend yields, [and] not particularly expensive in today's world," he said.
The summer swoon in stocks shows that money can be lost in the short term, said Rogers, whose firm has $773 billion in assets under management. "But it doesn't feel like the preconditions are in place to have a really dramatic down move."
With leverage down, real estate under control and consumers flush with cash, he said, "it doesn't feel like there's this doomsday scenario, which doesn't mean that stocks can't go down 10 percent in a six-month period."
He said investors are not really jumping into the market right now because they are still frightened from the global financial crisis. "There's still hangover from that. I think ultimately their risk tolerance will pick up and they'll come back in. But it's going to take time," he said.
Echoing those sentiments, Miller said it took time for the conditions that created to the 2008 financial crisis to build up, and "generationally it typically takes a while for people to forget about things."