Wall Street or Detroit? Very simply, we're debating whether there are bigger opportunities to be had in big-time bank stocks or car stocks (lumping in foreign makers traded on major U.S. exchanges here so Ford
Here are the thoughts of some of our top analysts:
Tim Beyers, Fool contributor and Rule Breakers analyst
This would be more fun if it were the battle of the child stars. Jaden Smith, playing a Detroit transplant to Beijing who adopts Jackie Chan as his kung-fu teacher in a remake of The Karate Kid, versus Shia LaBeouf, playing Michael Douglas' new understudy in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Detroit vs. Wall Street, Hollywood style. Ding!
(Sigh.) If only.
What we have instead is a battle between two troubled industries, with Washington, D.C., deciding the winner. That's right, Fools: the feds. Miscreant behavior from Toyota
Why? Ford. Alan Mulally and his team have done so well turning the company around that they're now picking and choosing from partners to work with, right down to the radio. Organic growth has returned.
By contrast, Wall Street's paragon, JPMorgan Chase
Alex Dumortier, CFA, Fool contributor
I'm going to have to go with Wall Street over Motown, even though both industries face a similar challenge: Their domestic market has shrunk. For the car industry, the unit sales figures paint a stark picture; for Wall Street, the phantom profits earned securitizing anything that could be mistaken for a stream of cash flows will not return.
All the same, Wall Street is simply better positioned than Detroit. On Wall Street, you have a pyramid at the top of which sits an oligopoly made up of five firms: Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup
Furthermore, my educated guess is that financial reform will be less painful on big banks than the market expects.
With all that said, unless you're a very experienced investor with the time to devote to the exercise, I don't think either industry is a great place to look for investment opportunities; these businesses are not well-suited to long-term ownership. As such, you need to be very confident of your valuation skills (among other things) before you consider 'renting' these stocks.
John Rosevear, Fool contributor
I'm still leery of bank stocks in the wake of the 2008 crash, so I'm going to look at the question another way: Is it a good time to buy autos?
Auto stocks are classic cyclical stocks -- they ride boom-and-bust cycles along with the economy. The lows of early 2009 were a massive, historic "bust" point -- indeed, two of the big U.S. automakers actually did go "bust" -- and the automakers, and their stocks, have (to greater or lesser degrees) seen boom times since. That upswing should continue for a while as the economy continues to find its footing.
But while Toyota and Honda
I'd argue that it isn't. Ford's recovery has been one for the record books, but like the economy's recovery, there's still an awful long way to go. As the company continues to pay down its ginormous (that's a technical term) debt load, continues to increase its presence in key markets like China, and continues its green-focused innovation, its shares should continue to reward investors -- at least until the next cyclical downturn.
Matt Koppenheffer, Fool contributor
Is this a serious question? Would I rather invest in low-margin, capital- intensive businesses that have to deal with unions and pensions, or an industry that prints money and gets a pass from the government even when it imperils the entire economy?
Hmm ... Yeah, I'll take the latter.
Hate them if you want, but through the bailouts and the wholly toothless reform process, the big financial firms -- from bank-centric Bank of America and Citigroup to the pure-play investment bankers Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley -- have shown that they really are backed by Uncle Sam. Or at least they know how to effectively pull the strings in Washington.
With the group on Wall Street still trading at low book value multiples, I think there's at least short-term opportunity for investors as we see just how little effect reform will have on the industry's profits.
Those are our thoughts on banking and car stocks. Share yours in the comments section below. Then check out some of our favorite tech stocks.