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JP Morgan's market guru Marko Kolanovic sees stocks 'drifting' higher

Key Points
  • Despite some weaker economic data, the stock market should continue to "drift" higher, says top J.P. Morgan strategist Marko Kolanovic.
  • The firm has a 3,000 year-end price target on the S&P 500, which is almost 15 percent higher than Wednesday's close.
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Despite some weaker economic data, the stock market should continue to "drift" higher, top J.P. Morgan strategist Marko Kolanovic told CNBC on Wednesday.

The firm has a 3,000 year-end price target on the , which is almost 15 percent higher than Wednesday's close.

"You could have actually data that is maybe not stellar but stocks that are actually drifting higher on account of some re-levering and maybe some opportunistic buying," Kolanovic, the firm's global head of quantitative and derivatives strategy, said on "Fast Money. "

He also expects the U.S.-China trade war and government shutdown to be resolved in the first quarter and a Federal Reserve that won't raise rates this year. While earnings growth will slow, he still anticipates mid- to high-single digit growth this year.

However, Kolanovic expects to see more frequent bouts of volatility.

U.S. stocks have bounced back sharply this year after suffering massive losses near the end of 2018. The major indexes are up at least 3.16 percent year to date.

Kolanovic, whose calls have moved the stock market in the past, issued a mea culpa earlier this month, acknowledging that he was wrong when he told clients to expect a year-end rally. It turned out to be the worst December for U.S. stocks since the Great Depression. The major indexes all dropped at least 8.7 percent for the month.

December's "ugly price action" was due to retail mutual fund liquidation, Kolanovic said.

"Retail kind of pulled the plug in an environment where there was no liquidity," he noted.

While his outlook is for the upside this year, he acknowledged there is about a 25 percent chance that the market can go much lower.

"We are taking a bit of a leap of faith that the U.S. is not going to go into recession," he said. "We do have a slowdown, but we don't go from 3.5 [percent GPD growth] to negative. We slow somewhere in the low 2s, which can still actually grow you earnings. We are adding jobs."

— CNBC's Stephanie Landsman and Fred Imbert contributed to this report.

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