When you get unanimous opinion about something, the market usually goes in the other direction, Aaron Task, co-executive editor of
"RealMoney" radio show listeners Wednesday. Task is filling in for host Jim Cramer this week.
So it didn't surprise him too much that stocks rose despite the fact that a host of market strategists have suggested that the market is topping, an opinion that sends out bearish signals.
Moreover, the day's economic data make a case that the
may not have many rate hikes left, which would be good for stocks.
Task pointed out that while the consumer price index rose by 0.7%, higher than the expected 0.5% gain, the core reading, excluding food and energy costs, rose only 0.22%, in line with Wall Street estimates.
The core is all the Fed cares about, he said.
Moreover, Task pointed out that oil prices were down and that crude inventories have increased. While this could be negative for energy prices, it would keep overall inflation readings low, he said.
He said the decision of Fed Vice Chairman Roger Ferguson to step down effective April 28 has yet to have an impact on the market. However, Task said that Ferguson has been an opponent of inflation targeting and that we'll see if his departure leads the Fed toward targets.
The European Central Bank has inflation targets, Task said, adding that targets could lock the Fed into a course regardless of factors not taken into account by the inflation target formula.
Task said that when it's time to get defensive in the market, there are a number of factors to look at before picking stocks. These include a high return on equity, low P/E ratios and low debt ratios.
He also added "relatively low relative strength" to that list, meaning that if momentum stocks are out of favor, then it's important to choose stocks that haven't had that momentum.
He came up with a couple of names based on these prerequisites and said that he would start doing some homework on them before deciding whether or not to buy.
Pacific Century Cyberworks, was on the list, as well as
Dun & Bradstreet
A handful of royalty trusts also appeared on his list, but Task reminded listeners that Jim Cramer often steers people away from these plays.
That's because they pay hefty dividends, Task said, but that those payments may not be sustainable.
Task welcomed Brian Belski, senior equity investment strategist at Merrill Lynch, to explain why investors should be bullish on the market.
If you took a look at the market as a casual observer, all of the 10 sectors have been positive so far this year, Belski said, with telecom being the No. 1 performing sector.
So while the technical community is saying that the market is due for a correction, that's not enough for Belski to say it's time to pull money out of equities.
He said that he looks at forward fundamentals and that these are on firm footing going ahead. This includes valuations at or near 20-year averages, earnings still forecast to post low double-digit growth -- even if results are no longer shockingly good -- and a rebound in the GDP.
Belski said that while an inverted yield curve has historically preceded recession, he doesn't think that the curve will remain inverted. In 12 to 18 months, he believes that "margins will be steeper" and that the "curve will widen" as short-term rates level off and long-term rates move higher.
It's a contrarian play in light of the current yield picture, but Belski still likes big banks and brokerage stocks, a sector that hit an all-time high Wednesday. He added that growth in the sector is going to be stronger than most people anticipate.
One fundamental downside risk is an increase in protectionist sentiment, he wrote in a research note. From an economic point of view, the more protectionist you become, the more growth opportunities are restricted, he told Task.
Task pointed out that if the Dubai Ports deal is scuttled, it would be the second major business deal where Congress has stepped in because of political concerns.
Belski said that this sort of tone causes volatility because Wall Street needs room to react to the news so as not to be on the wrong side of the trade. He added that this will remain the case unless some conclusive evidence or piece of legislation is revealed.
Task told listeners that the wealth management group at Merrill Lynch is bullish on Japan and emerging markets in Asia, according to a recently released report. And he said that exchange-traded funds may be one way to play this.
Task suggested taking a look at
MSCI Japan Index
MSCI Pacific ex-Japan
MSCI South Korea Index
MSCI Taiwan Index
He said that some of the group's favorite sectors in the U.S. include financials, health care and technology.
The Merrill report names
Affiliated Computer Services
It also looks at
Community Health Systems
, Brazilian airplane and defense equipment company
Embraer-Empresa Brasileira De Aeronautica
, an instruments manufacturer based in Switzerland.
Will Gabrielski, who co-authors the
Stocks Under $10 newsletters, gave listeners some bottom-up investing ideas.
Gabrielski recently posted a bullish piece on
because of consumer demand for "massive amounts of storage and memory capacity" that he said Wall Street has yet to understand. He added that this cycle for DRAM chips is different.
He agreed that the most dangerous words on Wall Street are "it's different this time," but he said that this memory cycle is being driven by phones, mobile computers and laptops, i.e., "pretty much anything that has Internet access and that we'll need memory for."
Gabrielski added that demand for memory required by these gadgets will pick up slack that would traditionally occur when a cycle ends.
He believes that Micron shares can hit $20, from the current share price near $16, as demand has been steady in what is traditionally a slow time of the year. Plus, the company is brokering a deal with
, which means that its chips could show up in
Analysts are still neutral to negative on the name, so there could still be time to get on board, Gabrielski said.
He told Task that
is an interesting name because people still remember it as a company in the 1990s that had a bad CEO who destroyed shareholder value.
But he said it's now a derivative play on solar power because it has an 87.5% ownership stake in
Gabrielski also said that
Energy Conversion Devices
is another solar power play that is overlooked.
The company makes non-silicone-based solar technology that Gabrielski said could take off because of the current silicone shortage.
And finally, he said that he likes
because it is so heavily levered to oil prices.
He is taking the stance that oil prices aren't going to get much worse and that if they come down below $60 a barrel for a long period of time, that could automatically add to the company's bottom line.
Gabrielski explained that when looking for a "breakout stock," the blue chip of tomorrow, he scours small names that have market values under $5 billion.
He said that pure secular growth is important, meaning that the company's success or failure is not heavily dependent on an economic cycle for growth, and that he looks for acceleration in earnings and revenue.
Shortages in sectors can also make a company a breakout stock. For example, he is looking at an industrial gas play because he believes that demand is increasing more quickly than supply.
Finally, Gabrielski said that he looks on the value side for names with great fundamentals that have been ignored or overlooked by Wall Street.
Want more Cramer? Check out Jim's rules and commandments for investing from his latest book by
Aaron L. Task is the co-executive editor of 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.
to send him an email.