It's not just fans of ABC's hit show Lost who find themselves counting the days to next year in order to finally get to the bottom of things. Several Wall Street stories are lunging toward the 2006 finish line with incomplete endings.
Uncertainty is a major part of the art of investing. Many would argue that it is in that gray area of uncertainty where opportunity pitches its tent. So let's take a look at some of the bigger questions that will pique our curiosity in 2007.
Will Steve Jobs go to jail?
After years of spectacular gains at Apple Computer
Are there criminal ramifications here? There may be. Will Jobs lose his post? Jobs is too proud to go down without a fight, if in fact we're heading down that path.
Will Windows Vista and Office 2007 save Microsoft?
The highly anticipated upgrades to Microsoft's
The shift toward Web-stored application and enterprise software and the popularity of the open-source Linux platform will test Microsoft's relevance. The stock has also been bid up in recent months, indicating that investors may be discounting a healthy adoption rate and banking on a higher growth rate. Will it be enough? Even the iconic paper-clip helper in Microsoft Office doesn't know the answer to that query.
Will the real estate market bounce back?
High mortgage rates and unsustainable housing prices popped the housing bubble. Will kinder borrowing costs and slightly lower home prices bring house hunters back? It doesn't look too bright in the near term. Speculative homebuyers got burned with exotic mortgage offerings, and the cash-out refinancing deals that sparked the gold rush are a fading memory.
Developers are posting bleak orders as they surrender their deposits on new land options. Housing starts bounced back in November, but that came after hitting a six-year low in October. The end result is that we have a glut of available homes on the market and tens of thousands of jobs have been lost in the construction industry. If the sector stages a recovery in 2007, it will probably take place later rather than sooner, yet there may still be a little more air to let out of the bubble before the market can begin huffing and puffing again.
Who will be the next prolific CEO to go?
2006 brought us some pretty meaty resignations, but they were mostly tied to backdating concerns. The new year will likely have a few notable chieftains getting the boot for a more conventional weakness: incompetence. I had singled out four CEOs who were on the hot seat earlier this month, with Gap's
Will Google remain buoyant?
Believe it or not, 2006 proved to a mortal year for Google
Thankfully, Google's profits have grown way faster than its capital appreciation in 2006. This prices Google at 34 times forward earnings, which isn't exactly a screaming bargain, but it doesn't seem so outlandish given the company's heady growth and its penchant for trouncing market forecasts.
A lot is riding on Google. As other Internet bellwethers slipped in 2006, Google carried the torch, and the load. Some have even argued that the fate of strength in tech stocks and the venture capital infusion into Web 2.0 upstarts in 2007 rests solely on Google not faltering. That's a heavy load for Google to carry, but we've seen it lift heavier weights before.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz doesn't mind the cliffhanger, as long as it's not light air waiting at the other end. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy .