BlackRock CEO Larry Fink calls a bottom in stocks (for now), but warns about geopolitical risks

  • The stock market has made a near-term closing bottom on Christmas Eve, but whether that holds depends on geopolitical risks, says Fink.
  • The co-founder of the world's largest money manager cites three key issues: U.S. trade negotiations with China, Brexit and the U.S. government shutdown.
  • Fink says it's appropriate that many Federal Reserve officials are talking about a pause in interest rate hikes.

BlackRock Chairman and CEO Larry Fink told CNBC on Wednesday the stock market has made a near-term closing bottom on Christmas Eve, but whether that holds depends on geopolitical risks.

Fink, co-founder of the world's largest money manager, cited three issues as question marks for Wall Street: the outcomes of U.S. trade negotiations with China, Brexit and the U.S. government shutdown.

"All that just produces uncertainty," he said. "You're seeing the seeds of a global economic slowdown, but we have never believed we're seeing the seeds of a global recession."

Against that backdrop, Fink said it's appropriate that many Federal Reserve officials are talking about a pause in interest rate hikes, including Fed Chairman Jerome Powell who said either this month that central bankers "will be patient" on rates given continued muted inflation.

That more dovish talk out of the Fed has helped Wall Street recover some of the late-2018 declines that sent stocks into a bear market — a decline of 20 percent or more from recent highs.

However, the Fed still raised rates for the fourth time in 2018 after its mid-December policy meeting and projected two more hikes in 2019. That continued to fuel Wall Street's slide to its closing lows of 2018 on Christmas Eve.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq have been sporting solid gains this year. As of Tuesday's close, the Dow was the closest of the three to escaping correction territory — measured as a decline of 10 percent or more from recent highs. The Dow on Tuesday closed up two-thirds of a percent; the S&P 500 gained just over 1 percent; while the Nasdaq outperformed with a 1.71 percent advance as Netflix led a bounce in tech stocks.

Investors are certainly starting to put money back to work in January, said Fink, who appeared on CNBC Wednesday shortly after BlackRock reported quarterly earnings that missed expectations. Revenue slightly beat estimates, according to a revised estimate buy Refinitiv after the earnings report. Assets under management at the end of the fourth quarter dipped below $6 trillion, which he blamed on the markets. "We had about a 5 percent decay in our asset base. Not because of outflows but because the market fell."

"We have benefited as a firm over the last 10 years with rising equity markets," he acknowledged. "Over the next 10 years, equity markets will be higher, but we are going to see those types of swings."

— Editor's note: This story was updated after Refinitiv revised its projection for BlackRock revenues after the company reported its financial results. According to the revised estimate, BlackRock sales slightly exceeded fourth-quarter expectations.

WATCH: Fink breaks down BlackRock's Q4 earnings

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