Bill Meehan is GuruVision's Guru of the Year for 2001, in honor of how he conducted both his personal and professional lives.
Meehan, who died in the World Trade Center attack of Sept. 11, would have eschewed the guru moniker as too burdensome or undeserved (or just too goofy). But the late Cantor Fitzgerald strategist and
contributor earned the GOTY title purely because of his work.
Clearly, he was the emotional choice as well. The
results of the poll and the many heartfelt emails I've received indicate how deeply he touched the lives of readers and all who knew him. I share those feelings.
Given the circumstances, the Guru of the Year voting essentially amounted to a race for second place. But the results were telling, and suggested that voters have short-term memories. GOTY candidates who encouraged aggressive investments in the fourth quarter -- James Rohrbach and Don Hays -- received more votes (both individually and cumulatively) than those who maintained a bearish stance throughout a difficult 2001 -- Thomas McManus and Douglas Cliggott. (Yes, Rohrbach had some notable defensive calls, and McManus had moments of well-timed optimism last year, but I'm generalizing here ...
work with me, people!
The votes for Hays, of Hays Advisory Group in Nashville, Tenn., were particularly surprising, because they starkly contrasted with the vitriolic emails I received about him after his summer rally call proved an unmitigated bust. The catcalls intensified when Hays recommended a 100% equity weighting for growth investors on
Critics will say those who followed Hays' (mainly) bullish advice last year wouldn't have had much firepower left when he made that recommendation. But the market's advance since late September quelled such critiques, judging by the GOTY voting.
Since late September, Hays has continued to push the "new bull market" theory and maintained the aggressive recommended equity weightings he adopted on Sept. 26.
Today, however, he inserted a bit of caution into what has been fairly ebullient commentary. "I still lean to the belief that the market will have one more very nice rally in the next few weeks, blasting even the large-cap indices above the 200-day resistance
levels," Hays wrote. But that will precede "a five- to seven-month sideways consolidation" as the averages wait for the fundamentals to catch up.
That remains to be seen, but the short-term "very nice rally" portion of the call looked good today as the
Dow Jones Industrial Average
rose 1%, the
climbed 0.9% and the
jumped 3.3% to 2044.18, its first close above 2000 since Dec. 18.
Elsewhere, Rohrbach, of Investment Models in Orlando, Fla., maintains the buy recommendations on the
New York Stock Exchange
and Nasdaq Composite that he made on Oct. 10 and Oct. 11, respectively.
"This is a surprisingly strong market," he commented after the bell today. "I say surprisingly because it is surprising a lot of people. These are the same people who are waiting for the market to retest the Sept. 21 lows. I'm afraid the train has left the station."
Rohrbach, who received the second-highest vote tally from the readers, respectfully declined my request for an explanation of what is generating his continued optimism. "I will not disclose the market indicators that go into my models," he wrote via email.
He also declined to predict the market's fate. "I did not know
in October, and I don't know now, how far this market will go," Rohrbach wrote. "I have heard a lot of negativism, but the markets keep clawing up. When they start down
or shortly thereafter, I will turn negative."
Forecasting the future is a "fool's game" and doomed to fail, he continued, and he suggested that "the best we can do is identify a change in the trend after" its onset. "You don't have to know how high or low the trend will go, as long as your math gives you the confidence that you will reverse your decision when the trend changes."
Rohrbach certainly has no shortage of confidence in his ability to identify those trend changes, and readers have faith in his ability to do so, judging by the GOTY voting.
The Dark Half
On the other side of the realm (in more ways than one), Banc of America's McManus and J.P. Morgan's Cliggott each recently issued forecasts for 2002.
"We would be surprised if this year's total returns for the popular averages exceed 10%," McManus commented yesterday. He maintains a recommended equity allocation of 55% stocks, 40% bonds and 5% cash. The lower-than-average equity allocation stems from his belief that operating earnings will not grow much, "if at all" in 2002; that view helped generate McManus' rolling 12-month target of 1200 for the S&P 500.
He maintains underweight recommendations in industrials, consumer discretionary and technology; market-weight recommendations in basic materials and telecommunication services; and overweight in health care, consumer staples, financials, energy and utilities.
Within bonds, he recommends one-third each in U.S. Treasuries, inflation-protected Treasuries and corporate issues.
As is his wont, Cliggott was even more skeptical, forecasting 2002 will be that
rarest of birds, a third-consecutive down year for equities.
Like McManus, he believes consensus earnings estimates are too rosy. Cliggott forecasts that corporate profits still will be 10% to 12% below year-ago results in the second quarter, vs. expectations for 10% growth, and that overall earnings-per-share growth "will be essentially zero in 2002" vs. expectations for 15% growth.
"And if we are right on earnings, we think the U.S. equity market is vulnerable to a very sharp selloff some time in the next three to six months, as 2002 earnings expectations are revised aggressively downward," he wrote.
On the sector front, he's overweight consumer staples, transports, energy ("our favorite cyclical sector"), and is underweight technology, financials, industrials, consumer services and consumer cyclicals.
Cliggott's year-end target for the S&P 500 is 950, which would be a 18.5% decline from today's close.
Tune in later for an update on what some other gurus and erstwhile gurus are forecasting for 2002.
Aaron L. Task writes daily for TheStreet.com. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in TheStreet.com. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He invites you to send your feedback to
Aaron L. Task.