Belski Leaves Oppenheimer After Three Years as Chief Investment Strategist

Brian Belski is no longer the chief investment strategist at Oppenheimer & Co. after three years at the firm, according to John Parks, director for research.

Belski, who joined Oppenheimer in March 2009 from Bank of America Corp. (BAC), left the firm on Feb. 17, New York-based Parks said. The firm is currently interviewing for a replacement, Parks said. Belski, 45, could not be reached for comment by phone or e-mail.

While Belski’s forecast last year that the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index would rise to 1,325 was 5.4 percent too high, his estimate was closer to the year-end close than the 1,379- average projection made by 11 strategists tracked by Bloomberg at the time of his call in December 2010. He estimated the benchmark gauge for U.S. stocks would climb to 1,400 in 2012 as profits by companies in the S&P 500 (SPX) rose to $101 a share.

“2010 and 2011 will both go down as being difficult years to navigate,” said Rod Smyth, the Richmond, Virginia-based chief investment strategist of Riverfront Investment Group, which manages $3 billion. He held the same role at Wachovia Corp. from 2001 to 2008. “In the last two years, our value work has been persistently optimistic about stocks, but our momentum work has shown that when people get worried what is cheap can get cheaper.”

2011 Returns

Belski predicted equity market returns in 2011 would be lower than in the prior two years, saying in a report last March historical data showed stocks’ performance tends to decline in the third year of a bull market. The S&P 500 ended last year unchanged at 1,257.60 after rallying 13 percent and 23 percent in 2009 and 2010 respectively.

“We are concerned that too many investors are just now becoming increasingly optimistic regarding market prospects,” he wrote in the March 14, 2011, report. “True, corporate earnings and economic growth have continued to follow favorable trends, but we believe that much of this is reflected in current market prices.”

As stocks sold off in August after the U.S. lost its AAA rating, Belski maintained his estimate the S&P 500 would climb to 1,325, saying on Aug. 8 the world’s largest economy was in better shape compared with the rest of the world. While the S&P 500 remained even for 2011, the MSCI All-Country World Index dropped 9.4 percent.

Belski had been the U.S. sector strategist at Merrill Lynch & Co. from September 2006 before Bank of America Corp. agreed to buy the firm in 2008. He also previously worked in Merrill’s wealth-management business and was a strategist at Piper Jaffray Cos.

To contact the reporter on this story: Inyoung Hwang in New York at ihwang7@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nick Baker at nbaker7@bloomberg.net

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