All this talk of avoiding a recession, of a possible stock rally and of an economic turnaround in the second half of the year must have had investors a bit too chipper. Greg Smith, the chief investment strategist at
, decided instead to find the negative amid all those positives.
After writing in a research note that "this last week, it looked like we were seeing the first signs that we aren't in a full-blown recession," a thought that should make us happy, Smith added, "a lack of a full-blown recession will leave us without some of the benefits that come with a recession (washing out of bad debt, broad cost reductions and a strong rebound)." Way to rain on our parade, Greg.
From there he doesn't do much more to instill hope in the investment community. He turns the focus to other possible troubles. "It is possible that in the summer and into the second half of this year, especially with the impending energy concerns, we could become concerned about rising inflation," he wrote. "These issues could first materialize in the credit markets and work their way into the equity market." There's not an ounce of comfort in that.
As twisted as it seems, perhaps Friday's higher-than-expected unemployment numbers are a relief of sorts. Smith wrote prior to the
jobs report that "if unemployment numbers come in line with expectations, I think it will put the final nail in the coffin of the recession issue," meaning that we had successfully avoided it. Maybe the high unemployment will send us flailing into a true recession, so we can avoid all the misery that Smith so kindly pointed out to us.
Gutsy Call of the Week
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter's
Richard Berner is this week's recipient of the
award, the note in question isn't so much bold as it is, well, heartbreaking.
Quoting the great
, Berner wrote, "It ain't over 'til it's over," single-handedly dashing the hopes of many wide-eyed investors looking for a recovery in the second half of this year. Berner reasoned that "the massive winter correction in inventories has stirred hopes that the economy is poised to revive briskly. We disagree."
Outside of Friday morning's
higher-than-expected unemployment numbers, the country seemed to be psyching itself up for an economic turnaround in the coming months.
Salomon Smith Barney
economist Christopher Weigand wrote on Wednesday that the recent inventory-liquidation numbers implied that "the worst of the downturn in overall capital spending may be behind us."
But it's not complete disagreement on Berner's part, it's just a bold call. "While there are anecdotes that high-tech demand is bottoming or even picking up, the evidence for that is thin," he wrote. Yogi might've been a
, but like good
fans, we can still hope, can't we?
What'd He Say?
Theoretically, the notes analysts publish are supposed to help clients with their investment decisions. And there is no doubt that the intentions are good, the analysis deeply insightful and the recommendations solid. But, well, sometimes there's the rhetoric. No insight or recommendation will get you anywhere, if you can't figure out what the analyst is saying.
technology strategy report this week was chock-full of solid analysis. A recap of the
conference noted that
Harvard Business School
professor and author Clay Christensen "discussed that when markets are immature, integrated vendors win (storage). When markets mature, more modular, focused companies succeed (PCs). Profit goes where the functionality doesn't satisfy user needs." Losing us here...
The note continues, "PDA vendors (
Research in Motion
) provide value in providing the system while chip vendors will likely have modest value added unlike
in PCs." Now we're lost.
But the note does an about-face and bottom lines the techno-speak clearly enough, "On the other hand, Clay thinks that optical systems may be overshooting customer requirements, so the optical component vendors will be the place to invest (
)." Now that's easily understood.