July 16, 2014 / 4:20 PM / in 4 years

Hedge fund manager Cooperman says market gains will slow

NEW YORK, July 16 (Reuters) - Hedge fund manager Leon Cooperman, who has forecast that the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index will hit 2000 this year, cautioned on Wednesday that gains will be slower as the market is more fairly valued now.

“The markets finally found a fair level,” Cooperman, who runs the $10.5 billion Omega Advisers, said at the CNBC Institutional Investor Delivering Alpha Conference. “I expect the rate of appreciation to slow.” he said. The S&P 500 traded at 1,977, up 0.2 percent on Wednesday.

He said the market was not yet priced to perfection, noting the market was in a zone of “okay.”

Long known as a stock market bull, Cooperman joked that the last time he was bearish might have been when he had his bar mitzvah, decades ago. He and other investors spoke on a panel entitled “Best Ideas.”

Cooperman listed Actavis Plc, Citigroup Inc and Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc among his favorite picks, but cautioned he was generally slightly less optimistic this year than when he spoke at the same conference over the last two years.

Speaking on the same panel, Michael Novogratz, a principal at Fortress Investment Group, listed his favorite trades as sticking with bets on Japan and India. “Just stay long the Japan story,” he said.

He also said he likes Brazil and Argentina, arguing that he expects political changes in each country that could underscore his bet.

But he repeated what he and other investors have said for months: The environment for traders betting on big currency and interest rate movements was tough right now.

Larry Robbins, who runs the $9.2 billion Glenview Capital Management, chimed in that capital remained cheap for companies looking to make acquisitions or buy back stock.

“Our single best idea is a theme: companies should be levering up now,” he said. Among his specific stock picks were Thermo Fisher Scientific and Monsanto Co. (Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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