In the annals of investment banking, Goldman Sachs deserves a chapter all its own. Seldom has a company been so reviled, admired, envied, and even feared.

Love it or hate it, there's no denying Goldman is a force to be reckoned with. When these guys predicted that oil would surge to $100 and beyond back in '06, many Fools laughed. The laughing stopped when oil proceeded to do just that. And when Goldman followed up its $100 prediction with a call for $200 oil just two years later, not only did no one laugh -- investors actually bid up oil futures, helping Goldman to fulfill its own prophecy. (Almost.)

For good reasons or ill, this banker's opinions remove markets – so even if you don't agree with Goldman, it's worth keeping an eye on what it's up to.

Bullish on Baidu
Goldman's highest-profile move this week has to be its contrarian argument in favor of Google (NASDAQ:GOOG). In sharp contradiction to Credit Suisse's prediction that the Internet search star will stay in China, Goldman argued Tuesday that to the contrary, there's a "70% probability that google.cn does leave China."

Such a move promises obvious benefits to arch-Chinese-rival Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU), which would monopolize the Chinese search game in Google's absence. But even if Google manages to search out a detente with Beijing, Goldman believes it's a long-term loser in this contest. Reports Goldman: "new orders at major Google China advertising agents (30% of its revenue) have declined 30% year-over-year, so even if Google stays advertisers will reweight toward Baidu." Goldman sees the situation translating into a $100 profit for Baidu investors today, as the shares soar to $550 by year-end.

Insulin, boo! High-fructose corn syrup, yeah!
A logical prediction, you say? Clear and well-researched to the point of being boring? Well never fear, Fool. Goldman hasn't lost its capacity to entertain, either. Case in point: The other major switcheroo in its rating today comes straight outta The Twilight Zone. Tweaking the contents of its famed "conviction buy list," Goldman cited the quick bounce off November lows at CVS Caremark (NYSE:CVS) as a reason to drop the stock from its buy list. Taking its spot: McDonald's (NYSE:MCD).

Who would have thunk it? Goldman Sachs is a "truck guy"
Speaking of which, the really big story this week is the one that -- on the surface at least -- appears the least groundbreaking of all.

Revisiting its "conviction buy" rating on Cummins (NYSE:CMI), Goldman concluded the stock remains buyable still. Strong fourth-quarter earnings have the analyst raising its price target to $64. But what's really significant here are the comments Goldman muttered while busy scratching out its figures:

Says the analyst: "China truck demand is accelerating, CMI is bullish on the outlook for emerging market power gen demand," and most importantly: "U.S. pickup truck demand is accelerating, Favorable material costs."

America loves trucks
Why is this significant? Not because of the incremental increase in target price at Cummins, but because of how the Cummins comments relate to other comments Goldman made last week. On Jan. 29, you see, Goldman broke away from the pack of its Wall Street peers, and slapped a $15 sticker price on Ford (NYSE:F).

Now I'm sure the recall debacle at Toyota Motor (NYSE:TM) had a lot to do with Goldman's endorsement of Ford, but I do not believe the story ends there. Why not? Here's a clue: Guess who's one of the biggest buyers of Cummins engines on the planet?

That's right: Ford.

Put Toyota's troubles to one side for a moment. Focus for now just on the series of prognostications Goldman has published over the last few weeks:

  • First, we saw Goldman endorse manufacturers of cardboard shipping containers, along with a certain A-list retailer who ships 'em.
  • Then, Goldman put its stamp of approval on America's steelmakers.
  • And now, we see Goldman making the further prediction that trucks are coming back, and that the maker of the best-selling F150 in particular deserves a target price at the high end of Wall Street expectations.

Foolish takeaway
What's it all add up to? Well, viewed individually, these upgrades may not add up to much, but when you line 'em all up side-by-side, the picture is clear: Goldman Sachs believes the Recession is over ...

And it's time to go stock shopping again.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above, but Baidu and Google are Motley Fool Rule Breakers picks, while Ford Motor is a Stock Advisor recommendation. The Fool has a disclosure policy.