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Kass: Where I Now Stand (2012 Edition)

This commentary originally appeared Jan. 9 at 7:22 a.m. ET on Real Money Pro -- for access to all of legendary hedge fund manager Doug Kass's strategies and commentaries, click here.

NEW YORK ( RealMoneyPro) -- Last Wednesday night on " The Kudlow Report" with Sir Larry Kudlow it was Tony Orlando and Dawn ... though really, it was Phil Orlando and Doug tying a ribbon around old Mr. Market!

Phil is a thoughtful strategist, and I have admired him over the years -- in his previous gig at Value Line and now as chief equity market strategist at Federated Investors -- so it was fun being with him last week.

For me, it's been a long year since I have been as optimistic as I am now!

My main point on "The Kudlow Report" was that I am growing more optimistic about the U.S. stock market's prospects, and I am of the view that it's now time to be expanding one's commitment to stocks.

(What follows is in part what I discussed on the show, but I am expanding the core points I made into a broader "Where I Stand Now" missive.)

Twelve months ago we entered 2011 with a wide range of concerns. My worries included, but where not limited to, structural unemployment and mounting fiscal balances (at the local, state and federal levels). I expected a foul mood to weigh on consumer and business confidence and on economic growth. As well, I envisioned a deepening recession in Europe. My outlook for the stock market was negative and I thought stock valuations were vulnerable and would be exposed to these developing headwinds.

Throughout most of the year I suggested that the U.S. stock market would be unstable until volatility quieted down, our political leaders favored compromise over division, European leaders and central bankers adequately addressed a growing debt crisis and until the domestic economic data improved (especially after the sharp erosion in confidence during the late summer).

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By contrast, most market observers entered 2011 with far more optimistic economic expectations (of a "normal" self-sustaining economic recovery) and with stock market forecasts that generally contemplated a 15%-20% rise in the major Indices.

For 2011, domestic real GDP growth ended up only about 1.8%, or approximately half the rate of growth that the general consensus anticipated. Corporate profits rose by 16% but most market indices were negative on the year as price-to-earnings ratios contracted.
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