2016 rout NOT end of stock bull market: Tom Lee

Tom Lee: Stocks are like the new bonds now
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Stocks may be off to their worst-ever start to a new year, but the correction does not show signs of the end of the six-year-plus bull market, said Tom Lee, co-founder of boutique equity research firm Fundstrat Global Advisors.

"You have to respect what the market's message is: ... Uncertain people are stepping back and risk is coming out. And we're deflating," he told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Thursday. "[But] I would be surprised if this is the end of the bull market here."

Read MoreS&P 500 could go to 1,600: Merrill strategist

With Wednesday's severe slide, the Dow Jones industrial average, the , and the Nasdaq composite were in correction territory. The Dow and S&P were on pace for their biggest monthly drops since May 2010, while the Nasdaq could suffer its worst monthly slide since November 2008.

But Lee, a longtime stock bull, remains undeterred. "This is maybe more like a 1982 moment, which means it's more the front end of a longer bull market, not the end of an existing bull market."

The S&P 500 sank below the key level of 1,900 level on Wednesday, with traders looking for support at 1,867, said Stephen Suttmeier, chief equity technical strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Research.

If the S&P breaches 1,867 then the index could be headed to the 1,600 level, he told "Squawk Box" in an earlier interview Thursday.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
The S&P 500 could go to 1,600: Merrill strategist

But Lee said he'd be a buyer at S&P 1,867. "I would think it's a great time to be long equities."

Despite what's expected to be a rather gloomy earnings season, Lee actually sees stocks doing better. "I think you can kind of be bullish about how markets will behave because ... we can at least calibrate where fears are versus expectations."

"I think the dollar headwinds are fading. And I think buybacks resume after we get the earnings," he added.

Lee also called stocks the new bonds. "There are a lot of companies where their dividend yields are way above their own bond yields." He gave as examples Cisco Systems, Caterpillar, and Wal-Mart.

In another "Squawk Box" appearance, BMO Private Bank CIO Jack Ablin said he hopes stocks are just in a correction. "I still think we're part of an uptrend."

But late last year, there were signs of stocks beginning to crack, he said. "There were some indications that this bull market was weakening and the underpinning just weren't there."

"The last time the market was fairly priced was probably the first quarter of 2014. Investors definitively feasted on easy-money policies and this notion that central banks had our backs," Ablin said. The S&P closed at 1,872 on the last day of March 2014.

"I would say we probably need to a 'comeupins' of the nifty 50, if you will, from last year. And then maybe reset to fair value, and we can have a decent base to go higher," he said.