Editor's Note: Jon D. Markman writes a weekly column for CNBC on MSN Money that is republished here on TheStreet.com . He's also a regular contributor to RealMoney , TheStreet.com's subscription site. If you'd like to see all of Jon Markman's RealMoney commentary, click here for information about a free trial.

Over the past year, I have picked a fight with Warren Buffett, defended Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Guns, Big Coffee, Big Water and Big Asbestos, battled for a new U.S. Navy destroyer, got chummy with chips, dug the ditch-diggers, shimmied into $200 jeans and hit for the cycle. In the process, I infuriated a lot of people, helped the rich get richer and did my best to entertain, inform and stir up trouble.

This is the time of year when columnists wax nostalgic on their hits and misses, for the sake of accountability, learning from mistakes and taking any excuse to take a second round of pot shots at straw men. In that spirit, then, please join me on a review of SuperModels 2005.

My favorite column this year was the one that led the greatest number of readers to cancel their free subscriptions: My mid-June indictment of billionaire investor Warren Buffett over his vanity campaign against the U.S. dollar, titled How Buffett Tripped Over the Dollar. In the piece, I simply stated that Buffett should stick to his stupendously lucky assembly of a crazy-quilt empire of furniture stores, candy makers, hamburger joints, manufactured homes and insurance firms, and leave the macroeconomic posturing to the currency-trading professionals.

His naive political stance against American interests has led to little more than further losses for investors, as the buck has appreciated 15% this year against a basket of currencies. Berkshire Hathaway shares have advanced but 1%. A few weeks ago, the company said it had reduced its foreign-currency holding to $16.5 billion, from $21.5 billion in the summer. Too bad, so sad. (Here's my own shout from the global macro sidelines: Next year, the dollar will reverse and resume its slide, favoring his position.)


Every year, I interview several new analysts and add them to my forecasting pantheon. In past years, it's been Michael Belkin, Phil Erlanger, Paul Desmond, Robert Drach and Lakshman Achuthan. This year, it's cycle specialist Tom McClellan. In my Jan. 26 column, Mapping the Odd World of Cycle Analysts, he forecast a rally in late January, a cycle low in June, a top in August, ugliness in October and a rally in November-December. All good.

When I checked in with McClellan in mid-October amid the gloom, he advised going all-in, with leverage by the end of the month, to exploit a November rally -- a great call. His cycle work now calls for new highs later this month and a fright show in the second year of President Bush's second term. "The market isn't doing anything but what it's supposed to, the way it normally does it," he said.

In that same column, astrologer ZM, who I can now tell you was Manfred Zimmel, an American-educated Austrian, said he expected 2005 to be dominated by Scorpio companies, by which he meant "dirty and hard" ones like oil driller Burlington Resources ( BR - Get Report), metal processor Oregon Steel Mills , utility Exelon ( EXC - Get Report) and oilfield-services provider Hydril Those stocks are up 72%, 32%, 29% and 39%, respectively since.

Zimmel plans to release his Amanita Forecast for 2006 later this week. In the meantime, you should note that the Bradley siderograph, a favorite tool of astro-forecasters, suggests one of the year's three most important turning points is due Friday, give or take four days. In this case, because the markets are trending up, that would mean the start of a downturn. Just thought you might want to know.

Strong Coffee

In more serious matters, I was happy to have explained the persistent appeal of Starbucks ( SBUX - Get Report) on Feb. 16 (" Starbucks' Genius: Coffee Plus Community") while it was undergoing one of its infrequent bear attacks. Shares have since enjoyed a double shot with whip, rebounding 24% and hitting a new all-time high last week.

Hundreds of readers responded to this article with tales of their own Starbucks obsessions. It is impressive that even in Seattle, where there are so many choices for great coffee from independent vendors at lower prices, people continue to queue up for 10 minutes or more under the sign of the green mermaid. It appears to have emerged as a brand for which there are few substitutes. If you're looking for a new entry point, target the $26-to-$28 range.

Asbestos, on Fire

Back in January, I called your attention to the opportunity in companies that would benefit from a government-sponsored fund to help asbestos victims ( Asbestos Exposure Is Hazardous Again). The asbestos-complex stocks had flown after President Bush was re-elected, on the belief that Republicans would fashion a friendly bill. But when I wrote, the stocks were consolidating their gains, as it appeared the prospects for a bill were 50-50 at best.

My own take was that their ascent would resume on any whiff of a possibility that a compromise was forthcoming, and it seems for the most part that has happened. The group of seven stocks listed are up 26.2% since my column, vs. 6.4% for the S&P 500, led by a 128% move in McDermott ( MDR - Get Report), a 72% move in USG ( USG) and a 52% move in Crown Holdings ( CCK - Get Report).

McDermott still looks good, and inexpensive, as it approaches its 1998 high; Crown is extended but still cheap and may have a long way to go. Look for new rumblings favoring a bill in the first quarter of 2006 after the hearings on Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito conclude.

Water World

Another column that made a nice splash was my big dive into water stocks ( Invest in the Coming Global Water Shortage). This became a somewhat popular topic in the financial press later in the year, so I was glad to have raised the issue early. The group of stocks mentioned are up 26% since, vs. 5% for the market, led by Aqua America ( WTR - Get Report), up 58%; Consolidated Water ( CWCO - Get Report), up 38%; and American States Water ( AWR - Get Report), up 30%.

Aqua is the big consolidator in the industry, and it continues to impress investors with steady earnings gains and acquisitions, though the shares are pretty pricey. Southwest Water shares, meanwhile, kept up their remarkable streak of no losing calendar years in the past decade. Both are near all-time highs and would be best bought on 5%-10% pullbacks.

Two Two-Baggers

In early August, I reported on a handful of small stocks with the potential for 100% gains ( Nine Long-Shot Stocks That Could Double). It's only been four months, and so far two have indeed doubled -- though one has given back a big chunk of its gain already. Peerless Systems ( PRLS), which licenses intellectual property to printer and copier makers, is up 140% and still looks great.

Chinese instant noodle maker New Dragon Asia rose as much as 177% but has since come in and is now up just 45%. As a group, my nine ideas are up 15%, vs. 1.8% for the market, despite a 67% crash in Tarrant Apparel ( TAGS - Get Report). Of the other ideas, Beacon Power , down 30%, still has a lot of potential in the development of products that enhance the national electricity grid. Turning PointsEvery now and then, usually during times of buying panics and selling panics, my editors ask for a think piece about market direction. Fortunately, I did manage to provide decent guidance at turning points this year. On April 20, pretty close to the bottom of the big push down in stocks in the spring, I explained why it was time to get bullish, in Why Market Skeptics See a Huge Opportunity. Then on May 25, I argued it would be smart to stick with the rally in mid-cap stocks, in Dare We Believe in a Chip Rally?. My picks are up 15%, led by an 89% jump in Express Scripts ( ESRX).

A Sirius Mistake

Did I have some clunkers? Yeah, of course. Surely one of my dumbest columns of the year was my annual bash on Sirius Satellite Radio ( SIRI - Get Report) on May 4 ( Are Investors Finally Wise to Sirius?. That negative piece pretty much coincided with the low for the year. Whoops.

But that reminds me: I haven't explained what a dumb stock Sirius is for seven whole months. So here it is again: Now that Sirius shareholders think they are about to enter the holy land with the addition of shock-jock Howard Stern to the satellite-radio broadcaster's lineup, this would be a good time to sell. One of those buy-the-rumor, sell-the-news deals. I continue to be skeptical that the company will live up to its hype, and it's interesting that, according to published reports, advertisers are not flocking to Sirius to market to his diminished audience in the sky.

Get Jim Cramer's picks for 2006.

At the time of publication, Markman was long Expeditors, Starbucks and Express Scripts, although positions may change at any time.

Jon Markman, writer of TheStreet.com Value Investor, is publisher of StockTactics Advisor, an independent weekly investment research service. While Markman cannot provide personalized investment advice or recommendations, he appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.

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