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Kass: Risk/Reward Ratio Improves

This column originally appeared on Real Money Pro at 8:35 a.m. EST on Nov. 5.

NEW YORK ( Real Money) -- I have been concerned that the economic, fiscal, geopolitical and earnings cliffs would be in attendance over the balance of the year and into early 2013, serving to weigh down the U.S. stock market.

I still remain deeply concerned about the earnings cliff, but recent signposts suggest a somewhat more reduced concern over the economic, geopolitical and fiscal cliffs is in order. These signals, combined with central bank easing around the world, suggest that the rationale behind a meaningful market downside has been removed and that the market's risk/reward has improved.

The S&P 500 closed at 1415 on Friday, which is precisely my fair market value calculation -- with the exception of my increased fair market value to 1485 in May, my methodology has been reasonably accurate this year.

Reflecting the increased likelihood that my base-case election result will occur on Tuesday, with the Democrats easily retaining the presidency and (less easily) the control of the Senate, I see the downside to the S&P 500 over the remainder of the year limited to about 1390-1400. The upside to the S&P 500 should be 1450-1470. (See Scenario No. 1 in " More on the Business of Politics" below.)

In other words, year-end risk is about 20 S&P points, and reward is approximately 45 S&P points, for a better than 2-1 reward over risk.

The Global Economic Cliff Is Disappearing

While I am still in the camp that expects subpar global growth, recent indications are that a self-sustaining economic recovery is in place and that the recessionistas are dead wrong.

Indeed, among the developed countries, the U.S. is shining:

U.S. economy: High-frequency economic releases during the past four weeks suggest a slight reacceleration in domestic growth that should continue into 2013 -- of course, this is dependent upon how meaningfully and quickly the fiscal cliff is addressed.

The positives are accumulating:

  • Jobless claims are declining, and jobs growth is accelerating. October payrolls increased to a net 171,000 jobs (compared to an estimate of only 125,000), private sector hirings were the most since February (helped by an unexpected increase in manufacturing hiring), and the previous two months' hirings were revised much higher.
  • Both the manufacturing and service sector PMIs have risen to above 50.
  • Housing has clearly bottomed and is recovering in price and in activity -- arguably, the U.S. residential real estate market is embarking on a multiyear and durable recovery.
  • The domestic automobile market is exhibiting a stronger recovery than many anticipated, and the 10.5-year age of the cars on the road suggests still-large pent-up demand.
  • Retail sales are humming. October consumer confidence rose to 72.2, up from 68.4 in September -- the best since February 2008.
  • Hurricane Sandy was just a terrible tragedy for many, but the rebuilding effort will result in incremental growth in the first half of 2013.
  • Inflation and inflationary expectations are stable.
  • Short-term interest rates are anchored and zero (though, as I will comment on later in today's opener, longer-term interest rates are likely to rise).

China's economy: The October non-manufacturing index rose from 53.7 in September to 55.5. This strong data follows the October China manufacturing index, which, for the first time in three months, rose above 50. Further, China's industrial production accelerated in September, and retail sales grew at the best pace since April.

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