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Once you dust off a crystal ball, it just won't stop talking!
I went out on a limb last week, delivering four predictions for the year ahead. Well, now I'm back with even more market calls. In no particular order, let me go over a few of the financial news events that I see happening in 2009.
1. Stocks will rise in 2009
I picked a terrible time to draw the naive optimist card, but hear me out. I don't think 2009 will be a banner year for the equity markets. I just believe that it will be a positive one.
It won't start out that way. There is another shoe to drop, and it will come next month when companies begin reporting horrendous quarterly results for the holiday quarter. Analysts will begin taking estimates lower. Way lower. Investors that have been wading back into equities will be in for a shock when they realize that the stocks they thought were so cheap are now pricier than they thought, on a forward earnings basis.
What will turn sentiment around? Well, I see a combination of Darwinism at work along with a lack of feasible asset class investing choices. As weak companies retreat or collapse, it's an opportunity for the quality players to gain market share. As for greenery parking spaces, follow the money. Dirt cheap yields on short-term paper aren't attractive. Real estate investing is going to be an abandoned art for years until we get through the glut of available homes. After bond yields bottom out, bond prices have nowhere else to go but down.
It all leads to investors buying back into stocks, the smart stocks that made the most of the economic lull.
2. Oil will rise, gold will fall
Gold has been the winning beneficiary of a lack of reasonable investing choices. Energy prices have tanked as the market worries about global demand waning. Shouldn't there be some symptomatic correlation? The economy is so bad that we are not consuming fuel, yet everybody wants gold? The dollar may be weak but are we really in an inflationary environment?
I don't buy it. In fact, I can take this prediction one step further.
3. Google will beat out gold
A share of Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) and an ounce of gold were hovering near the $500 mark when I made a seemingly boneheaded prediction three years ago. By 2015, I felt that a stake in the search engine would be more valuable than a piece of the precious metal.
I'm not sitting pretty right now, but we're not even a third of the way through the 10-year forecast. However, just so I don't flee the country come 2015 to avoid carving myself a thick slice of humble pie, let me go for a shorter call by pegging Google as the winner over gold in 2009.
Going back to my earlier prediction, Google is certainly vulnerable right now ahead of next month's earnings season. The once-consistent Wall Street topper has missed profit expectations in two of the past four quarters. Analysts have also spent the past few months talking down the company's forward earnings. Three months ago Mr. Market was looking for Big G to earn $23.91 a share. Now it's willing to settle for $21.68 a share.
At the end of the day, Google is a susceptible advertising company like many of the media conglomerates that have been pummeled into the single digits. However, just as papers are scaling back on circulation, terrestrial radio is yielding to digital music and satellite radio, and television broadcasters are missing out on the clip culture revolution, advertisers will have no choice but to ramp up their online spending.
4. Apple will be OK, with or without Steve Jobs as CEO
Speculation has run rampant this week. Why did Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) call next month's Macworld its last annual powwow, when Apple products are as popular as ever? Why isn't Steve Jobs stepping up for his "one more thing" keynote speech?
"We don't know why Steve Jobs has pulled out of his annual address at Macworld," Oppenheimer analyst Yair Reiner wrote in a note to clients, according to Marketwatch. "Maybe he's not feeling well, or maybe he just has nothing new to say."
Reiner's fear is that, either way, Apple is going to pay the price for not having a charismatic visionary taking swings in the on-deck circle.
I don't see it that way. Jobs is brilliant and iconic, but there is certainly more than one genius at Apple. Whether or not health is an issue with Jobs, 2009 will be the year when Apple delivers a succession plan. Did anyone picture anyone else other than Bill Gates running Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) ? That transition went off without a hitch. The same will happen at Apple.
5. 2009 will be a consolidation pinata
Credit markets are tight. Venture capitalists are scaling back. The IPO spigot has gone dry. This is the perfect recipe for a corporate shopping spree, but few sectors outside of the troubled banking sectors have seen massive consolidation.
Oh, that's going to change next year. Now that it's a buyer's market, the strong will buy up the weak.
Microsoft may not buy up Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) or Facebook, but it's going to make at least one major acquisition deal. Out-of-favor stocks with leadership positions like Garmin (Nasdaq: GRMN ) , Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU ) , and Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) -- trading at less than a fifth, a third, and a third, respectively of their 52-week highs -- will be opportunistically gobbled up.
Stronger combined companies will create the margin-widening synergies that will ultimately propel profits -- and stock prices -- higher.
It all comes full circle, like my round and chatty crystal ball.
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