SAN FRANCISCO -- With major averages destined for a second-consecutive year of losses, most of Wall Street's erstwhile gurus can expect lumps of coal (if they're lucky) in their stockings this holiday season.
But a few have visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads and a handful of something even better: dreams of being named GuruVision's Guru of the Year (GOTY). The following nominees are from the gurus whose work I've followed over the year. I'll pick the winner after mulling the guidance readers give in the
And the nominees are...
Cautious 'Til the End
To be the man, you've got to beat the man.
Last year's winner, Thomas McManus, equity portfolio strategist at Banc of America Securities, makes a strong case to repeat.
McManus continued to preach caution this year, recommending an equity allocation of about 60% to 65%, while admonishing investors to make heavy investments in bonds, which outperformed stocks this year. As the year progressed, he steadily reduced his rolling 12-month target for the
from 1525 at the beginning of 2001 (hey, nobody said he was perfect) to its current 1200, arguing that earning estimates remained too high and that the economy didn't justify aggressive equity bets.
Then came Sept. 11. In the wake of the attacks and resulting selloff, McManus raised his recommended equity allocation to 65% and then 70% by
Sept. 24. But by mid-November, McManus reverted to a
cautious stance, declaring the market vulnerable to "a retest -- at least -- of the September lows."
The market's robust fourth-quarter suggests McManus was right when he conceded
recently: "I underestimated the extent to which the market would buy into the concept of a quick recovery."
A very similar case can be made for and against Douglas Cliggott, market strategist at J.P. Morgan, who persistently argued that
stocks remained overvalued, namely tech stocks, because earning estimates were too high given the economic environment. As the market continually proved him right, Cliggott became the most closely listened to major strategist this year.
Ironically, Cliggott also was overly optimistic when the year began, forecasting the S&P 500 would finish 2001 at 1400 and the
would be at 2500. But he became most closely associated with cautiousness and, at 50%, maintains the lowest recommended-equity allocation of the major strategists, and, at 950, the lowest 2002 target for the S&P 500.
Given the market's performance since Sept. 21, that kind of resolute bearishness is no doubt going to cost Cliggott some GOTY votes, and rightfully so.
The Flip Side
OK sports fans, what was New York Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez's batting average in the 2001 World Series before he hit that dramatic, game-tying home run in Game 4? Or how was teammate Scott Brosius hitting in the 2001 postseason when he pulled a similar trick the very next game?
For the record, the answers are .000 and .152, respectively. But the point is (almost) nobody is going to remember those paltry figures, but (almost) everyone is going to recall the baseball players' late-inning heroics.
The baseball analogy partially explains the nomination of Don Hays, of Hays Advisory Group, which is destined to be a controversial one.
Jan. 4, Hays forecast an "interlude" rally that would produce gains of 15% to 25% for the major averages but prove to be a prelude to a "unilateral" bear market for both new- and old-era stocks. The timing didn't work out as he expected, but the directional call proved prescient.
Hays made another well-timed call on
March 20, when he forecast an "important bottom" would emerge within 20 trading days of March 16. By early April, each of the major averages had seemingly pulled trick.
Around that time, Hays was the subject of a flattering profile in
. Coincidentally or not, things began to go south for the man from Tennessee shortly thereafter.
Throughout the summer, Hays maintained a stridently bullish outlook, as detailed here
May 22 and again on
Wall Street Winces
Restoration Hardware Shakes Off the Dust
Five Stocks That Came Out of Nowhere
Stocks Stuck in the Back Seat
With the summer rally proving elusive and the market starting to turn down, many readers were genuinely frustrated with Hays by the time
Aug. 22 rolled around. The frustration fermented into venom after he maintained a bullish stance in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks and recommended aggressive investors put 100% into equities on
Hays' supporters point to the market's gains since Sept. 26 as a reason why they never lost faith in Hays, who -- rightly or wrongly -- never lost faith in his indicators. Hays' boosters say they appreciate his thrice-weekly market commentaries and note his other calls, including one in January that the
fed funds rate would be 2% by year-end.
Detractors say anyone who followed Hays' advice this year wouldn't have had much, if any, firepower left when he signaled the battle charge in late September.
For Part 2, including more nominees and a chance to vote, click here.
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.