2012 Stock Market Predictions Revisited

This article was written with Oliver Pursche, the Co-Portfolio Manager of GMG Defense Beta Fund. It was part of a series of articles developed under an agreement with forbes.com to work with a variety of contributors and assist them in delivering actionable investment ideas each week. The site, forbes.com is one of the top 500 sites in the world with nearly 10 million subscribers and nearly 100 million page views a month.

At the beginning of this year, I made 10 (bold) predictions for the stock market.

Here we are at the midpoint of the year, and I thought it appropriate to revisit these predictions to see how things are panning out.

This isn’t an exercise is self glorification (or flagellation, as the case may be, please read on), but rather a chance for all of us to take a collective pause, inhale for a deep breath, and if necessary, change course to preserve capital and where possible earn gains.)

Prediction 1: The S&P 500 Index will rise by at least 10%.

As of this writing, the year-to-date gain on the S&P 500 is about 9%. This prediction would seem to be in the bag. However, let’s not count our chickens before they hatch. I would certainly not go on record that if the S&P Index was 9% at midyear, that it would be 18% to 20% by year end. This is a volatile market. Let’s not forget that just a scant month ago, on June 4, the S&P 500 moved into negative territory for the year, before ending up just a scoche.

So, I’m comfortable calling a 10% gain for the year, but that’s it. Between now and year end, I expect more than a few bumps along the way.

Prediction 2: Greece will begin official negotiations to exit the euro.

Greece has not waived a white flag yet, but I believe we are getting there. We are certainly closer to Greece exiting the EU than we were at the beginning of the year.

Prediction 3: President Obama wins reelection.

This is not known yet. There’s a lot of noise out there that makes prediction a difficult business. I’d say in the worst case scenario, Mr. Obama has a 50/50 shot at winning the reelection. Let’s not forget, up to this point, it’s been all rhetoric. Obama is just now rolling out his tactical apparatus, which is formidable.

Prediction 4: China will allow the renminbi (yuan) to rise nearly 8% against the dollar.

Year to date, the yuan has risen just half a percent against the dollar. With China’s growth rate in GDP slowing, I think we’ll continue to see more western style monetary policy in an attempt to strengthen exports. Absent a full blown crisis, it looks like I overshot this one a bit.

I still believe macroeconomic forces are aligned in such a way that the yuan will rise against the dollar, but 4% would seem to be the top end of the limit, in my view.

Prediction 5: The commodity bull run resumes in 2012.

So far in 2012, the Greenhaven Continuous Commodity Total Return Index (CCITR), an indicator of overall commodity prices, has fallen about 3.5%, not exactly a bull run. Though there is still a half a year for this prediction to take hold, it seems unlikely from this vantage point. My original prediction was based on a more even global recovery, which has not occurred, and its absence has put a damper on demand for commodities.

While I am still predicting commodities will show gains for the year, gold and silver in particular, I doubt that any stretch of the imagination will enable me to claim that a bull run in commodities has occurred.

Prediction 6: Europe will spend most of the year in a recession.

Only the strength of the German economy kept the EU out of recession so far in 2012. But even Germany is showing signs of weakness (see Forget Spain and Greece, Signs Of German Weakening Spell Trouble For Europe). There are some predictions the EU is already in a recession. If it kicked off in March or April, then yes, it will have spent most of the year in recession. Frankly, this is not one I want to get right.

Prediction 7: The United States will avert recession, with GDP growth below 2%.

The latest revised GDP figures for the first quarter indicate a 1.9% growth rate. Check. Regarding recession, I like to use a “noise index.” That is, while nobody seems to like the current economic environment, I’m not hearing much noise about a recession.

Prediction 8: The 10 Year Treasury bill yield will move towards 3%.

Obviously I got this one wrong. Further, I can’t say I feel the situation is going to reverse course during the latter half of the year. I didn’t count on “helicopter Ben” dropping more money into the economy, and I felt there were going to be more signs of inflation, which I felt would force the Feds to raise rates in order to attract investors.

Not only do I now feel that rates will continue to be low for 2012, structurally, the way I see it, low rates are with us to stay for the balance of the decade.

Prediction 9: Brazil’s stock market, one of the worst performers in 2011, is going to be one of the best performers in 2012.

So far the bovespa is off about 1.7% for the year, and has been bested by some of its neighbors, and even some European countries. The German DAX for instance, was up 10%. I still see a fire getting lit under the bovespa, but perhaps not in time during 2012 to make my prediction come true.

Prediction 10: More shoes will drop in 2012.

I believe the shoe hit the ground in April and that it belonged to Jamie Dimon of J.P. Morgan Chase (JPM). If it was your garden variety multi-billion dollar trading loss, I might call this prediction a bit of a push so far. However, given the House of Morgan’s well known stance against less regulation of derivative and credit markets, the whole thing had a bad smell, indicating that something in Denmark is still rotten.

As Vince Lombardi said, “I never lost a game, I just ran out of time.” Ultimately, I think I’ll be vindicated on the areas where my predictions for 2012 fell short. I can only hope I’ll still be around when they come true.

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