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People walk by the New York Stock Exchange, June 24, 2016.Richard Drew

Veteran investor Jim Rogers is already predicting the worst bear market for stocks in his lifetime. And that's before you figure in a trade war.

"The next bear market is going to be the worst in my lifetime -- just because of the debt -- but if we also have a trade war, it's going to be worse than a disaster," Mr. Rogers, the 75-year-old chairman of Rogers Holdings Inc., said in a Moscow interview. "I'm extremely concerned. I've read enough history and been through enough markets to know that trade wars are usually a disaster."

Mr. Rogers spoke as the prospects for a full-blown trade spat looked to be increasing. President Donald Trump plans as much as $60-billion of tariffs on Chinese products as early as this week to swat Beijing for alleged intellectual-property theft, according to two people familiar with the matter. Meanwhile, China is preparing to hit back with levies aimed at industries and states where Mr. Trump's supporters are found, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter.

"You think the Chinese are just sitting around?" Mr. Rogers said. "China's a huge buyer of American agriculture, so of course that's the obvious place to hit back because that hurts Mr. Trump the worst. It's not Americans, it's Trump. Trump and his guys, those are the ones they have to hit."

With U.S. and European stock markets near historical highs, Mr. Rogers is looking for investments in Russia, China, Japan or Vietnam, he said. He bought short-term local Russian government bonds on Wednesday, he said, citing the appeal of the stable ruble and high real rates. He's also invested in the shares of Russian companies Qiwi Plc and Rosinter Restaurants Holding.

"I'd rather invest in Russia than in Germany, I'd rather invest in Japan or China than in America," Rogers said. "America is at an all-time high, and no other nation in the history of the world has ever been this in debt."

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