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Why the market is a replica of 2008 — and how to play gold

A widely followed market timer says it's been a bear market since summer — and it won't end until October, with a preliminary bottom in April. Still, despite a flight to shiny metals, a bear market in stocks does not make a bull market in gold, he said.

"You should understand that when you're in a bear market, you can still make money," said Tom McClellan, technical analyst and editor of both The McClellan Market Report and The Daily Edition. "As long as you're either trading with the trend or trading against the trend and knowing which to do at which time."

January's sell-off looks like a "near-perfect replica" of market patterns in 2008, McClellan said Thursday on CNBC's "Closing Bell." But he predicts the outcome will be about half the severity of the bear markets of 2001 and 2008.

"We're going in to an election year — it's the second term for the current president — and second-term election years are much more iffy, because we're guaranteed to get something unknown," McClellan said. "So we're repeating the pattern from the last time we had one of those."

Gold hit a nine-week high Thursday as investors channeled money into what they perceived as safer assets, Reuters reported. But McClellan said the precious commodity has until the end of the month before he decides to sell.

His prediction is based on the number of shares outstanding in SPDR Gold Trust. Until they rise more, he'll be watching for gold prices to break higher above 1,000 euros per ounce.

"The gold bugs are still not believing in it," McClellan said. "So we got another couple of weeks for gold to move higher. It's a nice move so far, but don't think this is a new bull market for gold."