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Feb. 28, 2019, 10:18 a.m. EST

Here’s what hedge-fund manager Doug Kass foresees triggering a one-day stock plunge of 5%

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By Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch


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Catch a falling knife?

The month of February is winding down with no lunch and no deal in Hanoi for President Trump and his North Korean counterpart, but plenty of green for investors.

Investors are waking up to news that talks between POTUS and North Korea’s leader fell apart in the wee hours of Thursday as the two couldn’t agree over sanctions. So far, it looks like that set of geopolitical news may not do any lasting damage, as investors are focused on better-than-expected GDP data that rolled out ahead of the open.

“The combination of the lack of progress with North Korea and China will drag on equities and we might have to wait for a new catalyst to renew the bullish start to the year,” said Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com.

Bullish start indeed. February is set to deliver gains of 3% or more for new indexes, with some pointing out it’s the best two-month start to any year of the year since 1987.

But our call of the day , from Doug Kass, president of Seabreeze Partners Management, warns that we’ve swung from a market opportunity in December to “market vulnerability” as the month winds down, with risk of “an abrupt change in market complexion and momentum” on the rise.

He explains his view in a recent email to clients: “A weakening global economic recovery, a faltering corporate profit picture, untenable debt loads, political turmoil (and the risk of an increasingly untethered President) provide an unsound foundation to markets that have had such a spirited rally.”

With that, Kass, laid out a top 10 list of events that could cause U.S. stocks to drop by at least 5% in a single session. Here we go:

1) Further bad news on U.S. growth, a stumble for China’s economy and a deeper recession for Europe. (Factory orders out of China Thursday were not great at all).

2) No U.S.-China deal on trade, and no “big deliverables” over IP theft and or technology exchange. No deal out of Hanoi could also be a trigger.

3) POTUS “lashes out in a series of policy mistakes” rattling market confidence as he faces failures in getting China, North Korea agreements. For example, hitting Europe with auto tariffs.

4) A move under 2.5% in the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield /zigman2/quotes/211347051/realtime BX:TMUBMUSD10Y +3.07%   — as the asset continues to fail to validate improvement in U.S. growth.

5) Machines and computer based trading, whose strategies are “all on the same side of the boat” push the sell button as big upside momentum we’ve seen in January and February makes a sudden U-turn.

6) More warnings over first-quarter results, adding to fears of a negative year for S&P 500 earnings.

7) Domestic pressures heat up for POTUS, such as damaging testimony by former lawyer Michael Cohen or a Mueller report.

8) A hard, problematic Brexit.

9) Crude-oil supplies spike and prices collapse.

10) A dovish ECB President Mario Draghi gets replaced by a hawk.

Note that Kass has been a bear on stocks for a while, as he turned negative in January 2018.

Check out: The U.S. stock market has now split into the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’

Read: How Donald Trump and the Fed could ignite a ‘shock and awe market rally

The quote

“Sometimes you have to walk.” — That was U.S. President POTUS at a presser in Hanoi, Vietnam where he said talks ended early with North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Un because the latter wanted more sanctions lifted.

/zigman2/quotes/211347051/realtime
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