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Re-Reading the 2014 Tea Leaves -- Assessing Year-End Predictions

Stocks in this article: WEN DRI SPY VGPMX

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- While I'm not a fan of year-end prediction columns, I still find myself writing one each and every year. More than mid-way through 2014, it's time to own up to what I've already gotten wrong and take credit where credit is due.

For the sake of brevity, I've summarized the 10 predictions, but you can refer to the original version for greater detail.

READ MORE: Warren Buffett's 25 Favorite Stocks

The Markets

1.
It should be a big year in the broad U.S. markets as measured by the S&P 500 for 2014; not a +4% to +6% year, but a 10% to 20% move up or down

With the S&P 500 (SPY) up 8% year to date, the jury is still out here, but mid-way through, the markets seem to be stalling as more pundits are calling for a correction. Either way, I am still in contention with this one.

2. Interest rates will rise during the year, with the 10-year note ending in excess of 4%.

The 10-year note started the year near 3%, and has fallen below 2.5%, despite the Fed taper. It's not looking good here for this call. The economy is still in the dumps, keeping rates low, and halfway through the year, I could not have been more wrong.

READ MORE: How Will Darden Restaurants Stock React After Completing Its Red Lobster Sale?

3. Overall, restaurant stocks will have a rough go of it in 2014.

The bloom is finally coming off the restaurant rose; a basket of restaurant stocks I follow is down about 0.6% year to date, and there are more storm clouds on the horizon for the sector, including rising commodity costs and labor unrest. Two of the stocks I mentioned specifically, Darden (DRI) and Wendy's (WEN) are down 4% and 15% respectively.

READ MORE: Will Wendy's Stock Be Affected By Its Russian Retreat?

4. Precious metals will rebound in 2013, as will mining stocks.

Gold is up about 7% year to date, while silver is up just 3%, but both metals have strengthened the past couple of months. Since the beginning of June, gold is up 5%, and silver 10%. With all of the uncertainty in the world, and the specter of inflation still weighing on the U.S. -- in my opinion -- the metals are looking better. After a horrendous year, so are the miners. The Vanguard Precious Metals & Mining Fund (VGPMX), for instance, is up 15% year to date following a horrendous 2013.

READ MORE: Here's What It Looks Like Inside Tesla's Massive Factory

Politics

5. The current presumption by nearly everyone is that Hillary Clinton is a lock for the 2016 Democrat nomination for president. Too many are too certain about this; I believe that it won't happen, and we'll begin to see signs of that in 2014.

A horrible book launch, questions about her accomplishments as Secretary of State, and lingering concerns about the true state of her health have continued to fuel the uncertainties here. I'm more convinced now than ever that she won't run in 2016. Who would want that job anyway?

READ MORE: GM Isn't Alone in the Race to the 200-Mile Electric Car

6. The 2014 midterm elections will be a bloodbath, as incumbent democrats try and distance themselves from the Affordable Care Act, and its continuing fallout.

No change here; if anything, with the election less than 100 days away, there may be greater certainty that Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will soon lose his leadership role in the Senate, and barring a miracle, the Republicans will hold onto the house. The wheels appear to be coming off in Washington, and with President Obama's popularity continuing to slide, this could be a barn burner. There are more scandals now than when I originally wrote this piece which have all but knocked the ACA out of the headlines. Still, it will be a huge pre-election issue.

The Economy

7. I remain skeptical of the veracity of the so-called economic "recovery". Unemployment will not improve much in 2014 -- not necessarily the headline number that is currently at 7%, but rather the labor force participation rate which is now at 35 year lows. Don't be fooled either, by the recent 4.1% GDP print we received for the third quarter.

Gross domestic product numbers have been horrific, including the first quarter's -2.9% print. Meanwhile, the labor force participation rate, at 62.8% for June is now at a 36 year low. This economy continues limping along at best, and in some respects, it feels as though we've been in a 6 year recession.

Sports

8. The Eagles finally win a Super Bowl, a dream kept alive by Sunday's exciting win over the Cowboys.

So much for throwing sports into the crystal ball mix. The Birds had a great season, but I blew this one big time.

9. Fifty one-year old pitcher Jamie Moyer, who has never officially retired, gives major league baseball one last comeback attempt in 2014.

My hopes were up in the days after this initial piece was published. Both Jamie Moyer and his wife re-tweeted this piece, as did a former Seattle sportswriter who knew Jamie well. But while Jamie is back in baseball, it's as a broadcaster with the Phillies. Maybe they should call him up in September; they could use the help.

The Affordable Care Act

10. The Web site may be working better now, but that's the least of the worries with this debacle. Ultimately, the ACA will unravel. It is an election year, and as more are affected by this train wreck, the public will revolt. You can't keep your doctor (period); you can't keep your current insurance (period).

Polls tell how unpopular the ACA, enrollment figures were tepid at best, and it has done little to insure those previously uninsured. Health care costs continue to rise, and there's speculation that ACA rates may rise significantly during the next open enrollment period. Recently, an appeals court ruled that subsidies for residents in the 36 states that did not start their own exchanges are illegal. Another court found the opposite, so this may all end up back in the Supreme Court. Where this stops nobody knows, but there is more uncertainty about the ACA now, then at the beginning of the year.

At the time of publication the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

TheStreet Ratings team rates WENDY'S CO as a Buy with a ratings score of B-. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

"We rate WENDY'S CO (WEN) a BUY. This is driven by several positive factors, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its increase in stock price during the past year, growth in earnings per share, compelling growth in net income, reasonable valuation levels and largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows weak operating cash flow."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • Compared to where it was a year ago today, the stock is now trading at a higher level, reflecting both the market's overall trend during that period and the fact that the company's earnings growth has been robust. Looking ahead, unless broad bear market conditions prevail, we still see more upside potential for this stock, despite the fact that it has already risen over the past year.
  • WENDY'S CO reported significant earnings per share improvement in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, WENDY'S CO increased its bottom line by earning $0.12 versus $0.02 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($0.35 versus $0.12).
  • The net income growth from the same quarter one year ago has significantly exceeded that of the S&P 500 and the Hotels, Restaurants & Leisure industry. The net income increased by 2070.8% when compared to the same quarter one year prior, rising from $2.13 million to $46.30 million.
  • WEN, with its decline in revenue, slightly underperformed the industry average of 6.5%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues fell by 13.3%. The declining revenue has not hurt the company's bottom line, with increasing earnings per share.

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