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Strategists Dismiss Nasdaq, Nikkei Wobbles

Stocks in this article: GILD

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Wobbles in the Nasdaq this year are not a "canary in the coalmine" for a broader pullback in markets, strategists say, pointing to the concentrated nature of weakness in tech and biotech stocks.

Instead, many are using the uncertain backdrop and market dips as a buying opportunity. The Nasdaq is off around 1% this year but has had two falls of more than 5% from which it has rebounded.

TIAA-CREF Global Investment Strategist Dan Morris views index wobbles as technically driven rather than due to expensive valuations or weak fundamentals. "A lot of hedge funds were betting on momentum trades and moved en masse to unwind them. As they move out, people follow the trade," he said in a phone interview. The manager has bought on dips in the biotech sector this year. Stocks such as Gilead Sciences (GILD) have shown sharp volatility, rising around 12% to mid-February only to shed its gains for flat overall returns this year. 

Morris said economic data, valuations and sentiment were all supportive for further market gains, with unknown geopolitical shocks likely to be temporary in nature.

Political instability and the risk of further military action in Ukraine has shaken equities, though strategists say the Ukraine situation alone is unlikely to have serious ramifications unless Russia acts to stem energy supplies.

Nomura global equity strategist Michael Kurtz points to the Nasdaq's rebound last week as evidence of the counterforce of better U.S. economic data. He noted that the biotech and Internet stocks at the center of the pullback this year are a smaller portion of the Nasdaq -- less than 25% -- than during the Tech Bubble, when they comprised more than 75% of that index.

"US equity sector correlations have remained reassuringly low at less than 70%, rather than spiking back toward GFC highs of roughly 90%," Kurtz told clients, suggesting weakness in so-called "new growth" stocks would be contained.

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