Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Barnyard Forecast: Has Europe Changed Things?

Our regular readers, will remember that the Barnyard Forecast is our short-hand version of determining the prospects for US stocks over the next 6-12 months. The Forecast receives its name from the acronym we use to "score" the prospects for stocks: Economy+Inflation+Earnings+Interest Rates=Opportunity (EIEI=O). Economy: We believe that the huge bail out fund that Europe announced over the weekend will continue to support stocks around the world. If Europe would have continued to dither, then there would have been trouble plenty. The way it is, though, we still see 3.5% world wide GDP growth and 3% US GDP growth. We were only counting on Europe gaining 1% before the bailout, and with the new taxes and cuts in government spending, they'll be lucky to achieve even that low level. A 3%-3.5% level of economic growth is not likely to put the Fed or central banks around the world on the warpath. Thus we would rate the Economy as positive for stocks. -- 2 points. Inflation: We believe the events in Europe will actually keep inflation contained. We still expect about 1.5% core inflation for the US. That is at the lower end of Fed targets and not likely to cause Bernanke and crowd to start hiking rates before the end of the year. Inflation is positive for stocks. -- 2 points. Earnings: We started off the year predicting 20+% growth in corporate earnings. It looks like S&P 500 earnings may actually rise closer to 30% for the year. This is an outstanding underpinning for the stock market for the rest of the year. Earnings are positive for stocks. -- 2 points. Interest Rates: We still believe 10-year US Treasury bonds will likely end the year near 4.5%. That would be appreciably higher than December of 2009, and thus negative for stocks. Zero points. The Barnyard Forecast totals 6 points out of a possible of 8. That is a bullish score. In light of the bailout of the troubled countries in Europe, we believe that the path of least resistance for US stocks is up. Had the problems been left to fall where they may, a domino effect could have continued to pound world wide stock markets. However, since European leaders have put forth such a massive bailout package, we believe the markets are likely to return their focus to the fundamentals and the fundamentals, particularly in the US, are utterly outstanding. The Barnyard Forecast is only based on what it can see. It cannot see the potential for new crises developing in places that are not now apparent. But from what it can see, it still signals an environment that is positive for rising stock prices.