As 2006 begins, I'm at the bottom of the barrel, bringing up the rear, and the proverbial low man on the totem pole ... and I'm not talking about being in the doghouse with the Mrs. for excessive partying on New Year's Eve. Rather, I refer to having the very lowest market prediction -- and by more than 2,000 Dow points (!) -- in the 2006 Business Week market forecasts. In this column and one to follow, I'll describe my top down, macroeconomic process, and how I derived my improbable forecast. I'll also review some market history and explain how, after all the arguments have been made, these long-term charts reveal the most compelling reason to be cautious on U.S. equities into 2006. If I were a weatherman, my forecast would be 50% chance of heavy showers --- despite the "sunshine" that greeted investors on the first trading day of 2006.
As part of their strategic planning, the Pentagon plays out various military scenarios: A land war in Europe, a U.S. invasion of Iraq, a revolution in South America. During the Cold War, Strategic Analysis Simulation was the mother of all war games, modeling nuclear confrontation between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. These exercises allow for multiple variables and outcomes: Winning was less important than teasing out how different scenarios could unfold. Strategic planners wanted to learn how decisions were made in the field, where surprises may develop, how unforeseen events could cause a "domino effect." I used similar war-gaming techniques to consider what might happen next year. Only instead of nuclear conflagration, I think about consumer spending, corporate expenditures and hiring. What might happen to real estate prices, and how will that impact other elements? Will the demand for commodities continue to increase? Will Asian growth stay strong? What will Congress do: taxes, spending, deficits, politics? What are the political wild cards? I wonder how inflation will impact all of it, and what the Federal Reserve might do, including the expected -- and the unexpected. Barry fielded some tough questions on his thesis from TheStreet.com's Aaron Task. To watch the video, click here .