I'm an optimist at heart. Two weeks ago, I looked at three things that can go wrong later this year, but let's look at the other half of the glass this time. There are plenty of opportunities for things to work out well for investors yet this year.
Let's jump right in.
1. Apple can innovate again
The market is hungry for something new.
Earlier this week, industry tracker IDC reported that worldwide tablet shipments clocked in at 45.1 million. That's an impressive 60% pop over the past year, but a major contributor is the influx of dirt cheap Android tablets. Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad actually fell -- in terms of both the number of units and the average selling price -- for the period.
The news gets worse, and for more than just Apple. As solid as moving more than 45 million tables may seem, this is in truth a nearly 10% sequential decline. Smartphones are still growing, but the market clearly is hungry for something new. Is there a better company out there than Apple to scratch that itch?
Apple is ready to flex its innovation muscles. CEO Tim Cook has promised that new products are coming as early as this fall, and we may be looking at more than just the long overdue iPhone and iPad updates. Whether Apple is cooking up smart watches, HDTVs, or perhaps something entirely surprising in the realm of wearable computing, raising the bar with a new product category at a time when the economy's starting to show signs of life is a great way to get consumers to spend again.
2. The video-game industry can bounce back
It's been four years of declines for the video-game industry, but that may change as the Xbox One and PS4 hit the market.
With so many mainstream gamers settling for cheaper and less intense digital diversions on their mobile gadgetry, it's easy to dismiss the chances for a turnaround. It also doesn't help that the first entry in this generation of gaming consoles -- Wii U -- has been a disaster, selling a mere 160,000 units this past quarter.
However, there's an unlikely savior here in Disney (NYSE:DIS). The family-entertainment giant is rolling out Disney Infinity next weekend, taking the genre that Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ: ATVI) succeeded in two years ago with a surprising sleeper hit in Skylanders, but exploding it into the mainstream by introducing Disney's beloved characters into the mix.
These aren't just video games that Disney and Activision Blizzard are putting out. Disney Infinity and Skylanders introduce collectible figurines with RFID chips that interact with the software to send the chosen characters into their virtual worlds. It's a video game, sure. It's also a toy with a hook for collectors, opening the video-game market to a lot of young gamers who may have been growing up asking Mommy for the iPad whenever they wanted to play something.
3. Stocks can move even higher
A common reaction to rising prices is that a correction or perhaps even a crash is coming. Yes, the market's been hot. The S&P 500 has soared more than 150% since bottoming out four years ago. However, the folks who were calling for cascading share prices in 2010, 2011, 2012, and now 2013 have all been proved wrong.
There's no doubting that a correction will come. It may even be uglier than just a correction. My point here is that a lot of people have left a lot of money on the table by assuming that stocks are too expensive.
They're not, by the way. Yes, the S&P 500 is trading at a seemingly rich 18.6 times trailing earnings. We're not at the insane heights ahead of the bursting of the dot-com bubble a dozen years ago, but we're certainly at the high end of the historical range. However, if this economic recovery is for real -- and corporations are about to usher in an era of expanding profitability -- the market may not be so expensive after all.
Yes, investors need to be careful out there, but don't be afraid to let your inner optimists come out from time to time.