Wednesday marked a fresh chapter in the market sell-off as investors fled stocks and sought safety in bonds, according to Allianz chief economic advisor Mohamed El-Erian. "Today's a new phase as opposed to just a continuation of what we've seen," he said on CNBC's " Closing Bell " on Wednesday. "Initially this was a sell-off based on interest rate fears and based on financial conditions tightening. Today, it has all the elements of also being a growth scare," he said. On Wednesday, stocks suffered after retailers' corporate earnings results warned of rising cost pressures. The Dow Jones Industrial Average notched its biggest decline since 2020, shedding more than 1,100 points. The S & P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite fell by more than 4% each. Meanwhile, investors bid up safe haven bonds on Wednesday. "Just look at the bond market. Unlike the previous sell-off, bond prices are going up, and that just suggests to me that this is a new phase of the sell-off," El-Erian said. The former PIMCO chief executive said the sell-off could provide trading opportunities, but not in the near term. "There will be trading opportunities, but this is a market that still is very vulnerable. Growth is slowing in the major economies. … It's a different global macro environment and inflation is going to remain a problem for a while," El-Erian said. For now, he suggested investors hide out in cash or cash-equivalent assets, even as inflation weighs on their relative value. "It's still losing money in real terms, but it's a good place to shelter until this growth storm passes," El-Erian said.