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Stocks won't bottom until managers underweight equities: Cavanaugh

Dow slips back into correction territory
Indications of a recession
Was Feb. 11 really a 'Dimon bottom'?

The market won't bottom until professional fund managers begin underweighting stocks, Voya Investment Management's Karyn Cavanaugh said Wednesday.

But there's a problem. Investors are not yet taking a dim enough view of equities because, despite fundamental weakness in corporate earnings, stocks still look cheap compared with bonds in the current low-rate environment, she said.

The S&P 500 had surged 6 percent since Feb. 11, when JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon announced he had purchased 500,000 shares of his bank's stock. But the rally since the so-called Dimon Bottom was foiled this week as stocks fell back into correction territory.

Equities fell in tandem with oil futures, which reversed gains on Tuesday after Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi dashed investors' hopes that major producers would eventually cut output to stabilize prices.

To be sure, managers are raising more cash, Cavanaugh said, but capitulation selling has only just begun.

"We're talking about episodic volatility. We think this is going to continue, and until we get that full-fledged capitulation, there is a little bit more risk, we think, to the downside," she told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

Voya Investment Management remains overweight equities and favors large-cap stocks and high-quality companies, Cavanaugh said.

Mary Ann Bartels, a chief investment officer at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said she is not ready to underweight stocks, either.

"The market is behaving just like it should behave. Oil, China, the central banks — whether they'll act, whether they won't act — those are all uncertainties," she told "Squawk Box."

Those uncertainties would be on the back burner if it weren't for poor earnings, she added. Without earnings growth, the market has no catalyst to move higher, she said.

Further, volatility is actually below the 25-year average, Bartels pointed out, but investors have gotten so used to the Federal Reserve backstopping markets through monetary policy that moderate volatility is roiling stocks.

The Fed had kept rates near zero since December 2008 until finally hiking them by 25 basis points in December, offering little yield to investors and sending them piling into stock markets.

Krishna Memani, chief investment officers at Oppenheimer Funds, said that stocks would not hit a true low until the Fed shows it will not just pause its plans to raise interest rates, but put aside its monetary tightening altogether.

"Clearly oil is an issue, but I think these are symptoms, rather than the cause. The cause has been the 18-month Fed talk of tightening in an environment of deflation and deleveraging on a global basis," he told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" on Wednesday.