Stocks, banks, and real estate are headed for trouble - and a recession is still looming, Wall Street legend Byron Wien warns

  • Stocks, real estate, banks, and the economy may be in danger, Byron Wien has warned.

  • Earnings weakness could tank the S&P 500 by 10% or 20%, the Blackstone executive said.

  • Wien sees a risk of recession, and higher rates hitting commercial real estate and bank lending.

Stocks, real estate, banks, and the wider US economy are all flashing warning signs, one of Wall Street's leading strategists says.

"Everything that I'm looking at makes me think that there is trouble ahead," Byron Wien, the vice chairman of Blackstone's private wealth solutions arm, said during a recent Rosenberg Research webcast. "And if I'm right about that, then the market is dangerous."

Wien, who spent 21 years as Morgan Stanley's top US investment strategist, is known for his annual list of "surprises" for the year ahead. He reeled off a laundry list of concerns to veteran economist David Rosenberg during their conversation.

They included the fact that stocks have outperformed bonds during a period when interest rates have risen sharply, and a handful of stocks including Tesla and Nvidia are responsible for most of the market's gains this year.

Wien also flagged slowing employment growth, the prospect of less demand for US exports as the European and Chinese economies weaken, and the likelihood that the US government will have to raise taxes and siphon liquidity out of the stock market and economy to cover the interest costs of its ballooning debt.

Moreover, he flagged the threat of stubborn inflation, rising gas prices, high mortgage rates stifling housing-market activity, dwindling consumer savings, and the resumption of student-loan repayments in October.

On the stocks front, Wien predicted a "double whammy" of shrinking valuation multiples and disappointing earnings next year will hit the market. He suggested the S&P 500 could tumble by 10% or 20% from its current level.

The Blackstone executive also sounded the alarm on the commercial real estate and banking industries. He noted the remote-working and e-commerce booms threaten to pull down property values, and steeper interest rates could spark a rise in loan defaults that might deter banks from lending and depress economic growth.

"I'm actually worried that there are going to be a lot of defaults out there," Wien said. "The major money-center banks will be challenged, and the regional banks will run into more trouble. That will put a strain on the financial system. So that's a serious problem."

Wien also underscored that a recession could strike late next year, and warned the market will likely weaken once investors start pricing in that risk. He cautioned the Federal Reserve is unlikely to cut rates until it's confident inflation will slow to its target rate of 2%, and the central bank might have to hike rates a couple more times before it's satisfied.

"I'm still worried that there is more tightening ahead," he said. "I'm worried that we are going to have a recession, and I'm worried that inflation is not licked."

Wien pointed to recent declines in leading economic indicators, dwindling bank liquidity, and the rise in mortgage rates as three big reasons why he's concerned about a recession.

He also issued a bleak outlook for the coming decade, predicting "very low growth in the next 10 years, with stocks only rising due to earnings growing, not multiples expanding."

The veteran strategist recommended investors play it safe by locking in a roughly 5% annual return from a money-market fund or 10-year US Treasury, and only turn bullish on stocks when the trading backdrop improves. He singled out commodities, fossil fuels, and some emerging markets as other good bets.

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