Long, on the Fence, and Totally Unsure—My Outlook for Stocks

2011 stock forecastI actually think that large-cap companies will be the big story going into 2011, at least for the first half. While smaller companies traditionally do well coming out of recession, this time around, the big companies have the cost structure and pricing power to accelerate earnings at a rate much greater than revenue growth. This is good for the stock market and the economy—in the short term.

I would own the index going forward over the near term. At the speculative end, I’d play with precious metals and select Chinese companies. Gold, silver and copper are the metals to be speculating in.

There is, however, a reticence to my outlook for the equity market. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I feel the same uneasiness about stocks that many individual investors feel. Perhaps it’s the lingering issue of European sovereign debt that’s keeping me awake at night. I suppose there are quite a few issues out there keeping me from being really bullish on stocks. Commodities seem like a better play.

But, it’s not usually a good idea to fight the tape, and stocks seem like they want to go higher. The S&P 500 Index is looking like it will soon hit 1,300, which really is an amazing accomplishment from the lows under 800 during the financial crisis. The index has to get back up to the 1,500 level to be where it was 10 years ago.

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I’ve written before about the eerie-looking pattern developing in the broader market. Just pull up a 20-year chart on the S&P 500 Index and the head-and-shoulders technical formation jumps right out at you. The scary part of this track record is the imaginable end to the right shoulder. Somehow, it really makes you think that, if the stock market were to mirror itself like a butterfly, there would be a lot of wealth destruction on the horizon. Of course, it never really pays to be a pessimist. You can’t do business if you think the economic world is going to collapse.

Still, this uneasiness I feel is related to fiscal and monetary policy around the world. There’s too much debt floating around and there are not enough practical policies in order to deal with it. As you know, politicians love to promise the world without the specifics. But, the fact is that governments aren’t really dealing with their debts and deficits and, if this doesn’t change soon, eventually the system will correct itself.

Anyway, my near-term view is to be long large-cap equities. My medium-term outlook is cautious optimism and my long-term view is completely unsure. How is that for prognostication?