If you are looking for value in this stock market, you’ll be hard-pressed to find it. Stock-picking is tough when the market’s already gone up and finding good deals is even more difficult.
At the speculative end of the stock market, I would say that U.S.-listed Chinese stocks offer the most value, but this entire sector has been in the doldrums for quite a while now. A lot of these stocks have gone down because investors lost confidence in management’s ability to report their numbers honestly. While this applies to a number of companies that have tried to misreport their business success, it hasn’t happened with all of them. Accordingly, there are some attractive bargains out there. The investment risk comes from the time horizon for these stocks to get recognized by institutional investors once again. In some cases, it may not happen at all.
While fourth-quarter earnings season is considered over, all kinds of smaller companies are just now reporting their financial results for last quarter and fiscal 2010. This is particularly the case with Chinese companies as well as a lot of junior miners. Mining businesses continue to harbor some of the best micro-cap stocks as far as I’m concerned.
As the broader stock market continues to digest events in North Africa and higher oil prices, some investor fervor has been taken away. I still think, however, that the near-term trend is up and that the S&P 500 Index will achieve 1,500 this year. This would constitute a full recovery from the financial crisis and return the index to about breakeven with its previous highs set over the last 12 years. If this happens, you could think of the achievement as representing a new beginning for the stock market. It’s been a long road since the technology bubble in the late 90s.
If the right shoulder of the S&P 500 Index does get formed (which I think will happen), it’s easy to look at the chart and worry about the future. The mirroring effect is stunningly apparent and it suggests that the current major recovery could be met with a crashing stock market over the next several years. The likelihood of this happening is remote, however, unless there is some major shock to the system like a new war or a major currency upheaval. If you look at a very long-term chart of the S&P 500 Index, you might very well conclude that stock prices are just returning to a historically normal price performance.
What’s really required to get the economy booming again is some major innovative event that the whole world can rally around. We need something big to come to market, like the creation of the Internet, to generate a new wave of wealth. I think this can be achieved this decade and I think it’s likely to be related to alternative energy. I’m bullish on the future, because I believe in entrepreneurship and its ability to create enormous amounts of wealth in society. The economy today is still in recovery mode from the major collapse of the housing market. It’s going to take a while yet for the system to balance itself out. But, no other economy on the planet is more capable of correcting itself faster and more effectively than the American economy. I certainly wouldn’t bet against it.