NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Leon Cooperman, founder of hedge fund Omega Advisors, started his investing career at Goldman Sachs ( GS) in 1967 and tried to make money over a 15-year span when the market went nowhere. He was able to find stock returns in a flat market, eventually rising to run Goldman's asset management division before starting a fund of his own in 1991. That experience heartens Cooperman, and makes him a bull about today's market that hasn't returned much in the past decade. At the Value Investing Congress on Tuesday Cooperman said, "You don't need to have a strong rising stock market to make a lot of money." Cooperman is bullish today about his ability to find high returning stock investments selling at a discount, but there are pitfalls. "I find things are so attractive today, but I'm just limited by how correlated everything is," said Cooperman. His optimism about the potential returns attached to today's stock values outweigh economic concerns like European sovereign debt, U.S. public finances and political gridlock. It's enough to presently have a 78% allocation of his holding in stocks. Cooperman picks Apple ( AAPL), Boston Scientific ( BSX), KKR Financial ( KFN), Qualcomm ( QCOM), SLM Corp ( SLM), Ace Limited ( ACE), Transocean ( RIG), Energy XXI ( EXXI), E*Trade Financial ( ETFC) and Sunoco ( SUN) as the most attractive stocks at today's levels. Doubling down on a so far losing bet, Cooperman said he's looking to add to his stake in General Motors -- among his picks he cited E*Trade as a takeover target by TD Ameritrade ( AMTD) and SLM as a liquidation candidate with a value of $19 a share. "The optimism we have in the U.S. market results from depressed expectations and compelling valuations," said Cooperman. He sees the S&P 500 index level of 1,100 as likely to be a resistance -- and which is a pricing of a recession. To be a stock bull, Cooperman has a few key assumptions such as U.S. growth and a resolution to Greece. He expects the U.S. will grow 2% this year and into next, adding, "I think that the notion that we're facing another 2008 in
the next few years is not a strong assumption." About Greece and the Eurozone, Cooperman expects that Greek debt will be ring-fenced and that E.U. banks are going to shed assets, transfer impaired assets to the European Central Bank and raise additional capital. "I don't see a different approach," added Cooperman.
Still, Cooperman expects huge risks to materialize. He suspects that U.S. public finances will precipitate the next crisis -- "One of these days interest rates will go up, it's just a matter of when." In the meantime, he believes Treasury bonds are a poor investment -- calling them "a bubble" -- because of growth and inflation expectations, not credit risk. Historically, he said the time to buy bonds is when the yield curve is inverted, not upward sloping. Cooperman pointed to high-frequency trading as creating correlation and a risk on risk off environment in stock markets, his major concern in picking among an array of cheap stocks. If he were to run for President, on Cooperman's agenda would be the reintroduction of the uptick rule and a ban on HFT, he said. "The public is out of the market, so the buffer is not there," Cooperman said -- the lack of public investors and abundance of short term traders is raising the cost of capital for business. Of all assets to be in, Cooperman nevertheless pointed to stocks as likely holding the best return --"you have a situation were 45% of stocks have a higher dividend yield than bonds." Stressing an optimism that made him money in 2009 and 2010, Cooperman said, "if history is any guide, we still are in the early stages I an economic recovery" -- though not at as early or high returning of a stage as past years. -- Written by Antoine Gara in New York