US Markets

No time to buy stocks with both fists: Strategist

Restoring market optimism

Falling stock prices are presenting long-term investment opportunities, but Bessemer Trust principal strategist Joseph Tanious said Tuesday there is no market in the world where he would be buying with both fists.

Tanious spoke one day after the Dow Jones industrial average plunged 401 points at its low, only to recoup more than half of those losses at the close. The also cut its losses in half by the end of Monday's session.

"I think this is a time to be very cautious. It's time to be careful," Tanious told CNBC's "Squawk Box." "I don't think all is lost. I think there are going to be some opportunities. At the same time, until you get some stability here in the markets, I'm not so sure you want to ride this."

In particular, oil price stability and a clearer view of conditions in China would boost confidence, he said. Instead, crude volatility, fear of a Chinese slowdown, interest rate uncertainty and the geopolitical tension that created headwinds at the close of last year have all bled over into 2016.

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Tanious cautioned against reading too much into Monday's volatility.

"Sometimes markets can be irrational," he said. "What we've seen over the past few weeks is a great deal of just irrationality. The underlying fundamentals simply are not that bad."

To that point, the housing market continues to improve, and rising household net worth is offsetting financial asset losses, Tanious said. Labor markets are also getting better, with signs of wage pressure creeping into the system, he added.

Higher wages create near-term challenges for corporate companies, but they are ultimately good for economic expansion and may create the revenue growth that has been missing from recent earnings reports.

Still, he acknowledged that risks loom and fears of a recession can ultimately become self-fulfilling. Current market volatility threatens to dent consumer sentiment and create a drag on consumption and spending, he said.

In this environment, Bessemer said, he is raising some cash — though it remains essentially fully invested — in order to reduce volatility in its equity investments and provide dry powder to take advantage of long-term opportunities as securities go on sale.