This piece originally appeared on Street Insight on Dec. 11 at 8:21 a.m., and is being republished as a bonus for TheStreet.com and RealMoney.com readers. For more information about subscribing to Street Insight, please click here .

This piece was updated Jan. 3 -- Kass' prediction No. 8 has partly come true.

Every December, I take a page from former Morgan Stanley strategist Byron Wien, now the chief investment strategist at Pequot Capital Management, and prepare a list of 25 possible surprises for the coming year.

These are not intended to be predictions but rather events that have a reasonable chance of occurring despite the general perception that the odds are very long. I call these "possible improbable" events.

The real purpose of this endeavor is to consider positioning a portion of my portfolio in accordance with outlier events -- with large payoffs. After all, Wall Street research is still very much convention and "groupthink," despite the reforms over the past several years. Mainstream and consensus expectations are just that, and in most cases they are deeply imbedded into today's stock prices. If I succeed in making you think about outlier events, then the exercise has been worthwhile.

Also, not all of these surprises are stock- or market-related; I also delve into some popular-culture issues in the business world to mix things up!

About one-third of last year's predicted surprises actually happened, up from 20% in 2005. Nearly one-half of our prognostications proved prescient in 2004 and about one-third in 2003 .

Our most accurate sprang from a variant view of prices of a broad range of commodities -- specifically the prices of the CRB Index, crude oil and gold. We expected the CRB Index to approach 375 (it stood at only 326 when the Surprise list was published a year ago and peaked at 368 in early summer); we expected the price of crude to rise to $80 per barrel (exactly the price crude hit in July) and suggested that gold might rise to above $675 per ounce.

  • Gold reached $740 in May 2006. Our expectation of a sharp drop in the U.S. dollar was also realized.

  • We accurately assessed the Federal Reserve's continued interest rate increases (despite the general view that the Fed would pause) earlier in the year. At the same time, our variant view that bond yields would rise in the first half of 2006 and then decline in the year's second half -- in the face of a deceleration in the rate of domestic growth -- was spot on.

  • We were spot on that the rate of growth in retail sales would slow in the second quarter of 2006 and that several highflying specialty retailers like Williams-Sonoma ( WSM) and Urban Outfitters ( URBN) would have disappointing same-store sales, although a large drop in crude oil and natural gas restored retail strength in the early fall.

  • As we suggested, a Long Term Capital-like hedge fund failure did occur, as Connecticut-based Amaranth's losses were on a par with the losses generated at LTC.

  • As forecast, China and India's economic growth surprisingly continued in an uninterrupted fashion, but the outgrowth of weak median incomes for the average American worker stimulated more than 27 separate pieces of anti-China trade legislation in Congress.

25 Possible Surprises in 2007

1. Private-equity deals begin the year in a spectacular fashion, with two separate $50 billion acquisitions in January. A consortium of Silver Lake Partners, The Blackstone Group, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Texas Pacific, Bain Capital and Goldman Sachs ( GS) acquire Texas Instruments ( TXN). Kohlberg Kravis Roberts leads a syndicate in the takeover of Caterpillar ( CAT), the 55th largest company in the S&P 500.

Later in the month, one of the largest buyouts in the history of the media and entertainment industry is made by Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners when they acquire CBS ( CBS) for $30 billion.

In early February, Goldman Sachs (teaming up with Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway ( BRKA)) announces that it is considering a going-private transaction. The Goldman deal is abandoned three months later, as a fractured mortgage market leads to a standstill in deal-making as the capital markets (and underwriting activity) seize up.

2. Robert E. Rubin returns to his brokerage roots and becomes the CEO and chairman of Salomon Brothers/Smith Barney after Citigroup ( C) decides to break up into three separate companies: a domestic money-center bank (Citibank), an investment banking/retail brokerage (Salomon Brothers/Smith Barney) and an international consumer finance company (Citiglobal).

3. Based on misleading government statistics, the housing market appears to stabilize in the first quarter of 2007. For a few months, those forecasting a bottom in residential real estate appear vindicated. Evidence of cracks in subprime credits are ignored, with housing-related equities soaring to new 52-week highs by March 1.

4. However, continued heavy cancellations of home contracts -- which are included in the government releases on homes sold and lead to an erroneous inventory of unsold units for sale -- lead to:
  • A dumping of homes on the market in the spring
  • A quantum increase in the months of unsold housing inventory
  • A dramatic drop in the average home selling price.

Sales of existing and new homes take another sharp leg lower as we enter what I've dubbed "The Great Housing Depression of 2007."

Importantly, the financial intermediaries that source mortgage financing/origination begin to feel the financial brunt of "The Great Mortgage Bubble of 2000-06" after years of creative but nonsensical, low or nondocumented lending behavior.

5. Foreclosures steadily rise over the course of the year to nearly 3 million homes in 2007 vs. about 1.2 million in 2006. Deep cracks in the subprime market spread to other credits in the asset-backed securities market as a lumpy and uneven period of domestic economic growth takes its toll. In a similarly abrupt and dramatic manner, credit spreads fly open and revert back to mean valuations, as previously nonchalant investors are awakened to the reality of credit risk.

6. The magnitude of the credit problems in mortgages takes its toll on the hedge fund industry, which is much more exposed to real estate than generally recognized. A handful of multibillion-dollar, derivative-playing hedge funds bite the dust in the aftermath of the housing debacle. Several California-based industrial banks fail (the West Coast is always at the leading edge of financial creativity and leverage!), and a large brokerage firm, heavily involved in fixed-income market-making and trading, faces material losses, and its debt ratings are downgraded. As the financial contagion spreads, rumors of a $10 billion-plus derivative loss at JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) (which ultimately prove to be false) spark the largest one-day percentage drop in its shares in the past 15 years.

7. In a panic, Congress announces a series of hearings on the derivative industry, and the Federal Reserve reduces the fed funds rate by 50 basis points in each of three consecutive meetings. Those efforts are too late to affect the already weakening economy as the long tail of housing begins to affect not only consumer confidence and spending but also other peripheral areas of the economy.

8. Commodity prices begin to collapse even before the mortgage market fiasco, but the onset of the decline is initially ignored by stock market investors. The CRB Index moves below 300. Notably, crude oil falls under $50 in a deflationary scare as interest rate cuts fail to revive the economy. The yield on the 10-year U.S. note falls to below 4% and stays there over the balance of the year. Editor's Note: On Jan. 3, the index did indeed break that level at 298.49.

9. Corporate profits for 2007 end up virtually flat year over year, but the pattern is inconsistent. After rising 8% in first-quarter 2007, corporate profits are down 5% in second-quarter 2007, up by 2% in third-quarter 2007 and back down by 4% in fourth-quarter 2007.

10. Equity-market volatility, like credit spreads, rises exponentially. The S&P 500 routinely has 2% daily moves, acting more like a commodity than a stock index. Mutual fund and hedge fund redemptions rise dramatically.

11. Stocks begin 2007 the way they ended 2006 -- very strong -- and the S&P 500 temporarily breaches 1450 in February. But by the end of the second quarter, under the brunt of the mortgage implosion, stocks drop nearly 15% and remain relatively range-bound for the rest of the year. The S&P 500 ends the year at around 1250, dropping by about 11% in 2007.

Reflecting the deflationary threats, one of the best-performing groups of 2006, industrial materials, morphs into the worst-performing group in 2007. With credit spreads flying open, the junk-bond market records its worst performance in over two decades and substantially underperforms almost every asset class in 2007. Technology, pinched by an abrupt demand plunge in consumer electronics, a listless response to Microsoft's ( MSFT) Vista and a drop in business spending, ends the year with a 20% decline in value.

12. Fidelity Management announces the introduction of its first dedicated short equity product. Alliance Capital follows with a similar product shortly thereafter.

13. With confidence in the markets and economies ebbing, merger-and-acquisition activity slows to a crawl by May. Several leading universities and endowments, which previously underwrote large private equity commitments, announce that they are dramatically reducing their exposure to that asset class.

As the capital markets falter, institutional funds committed to real estate are also reined in, initially leading to a marked slowdown in the recent appreciation in office building values. While broadening economic weakness leads to only a slight rise in office vacancy rates, as the year progresses vacancy rates deteriorate more noticeably. REIT shares get hit hard (and fall below net asset values) as the historic relationship between REIT dividend yields and the yield on the 10-year U.S. note mean regresses.

14. A well-known corporate raider finds himself with a concentrated portfolio of illiquid investments and suffers large losses. ESL's Ed Lampert cagily watches the early-year private-equity euphoria and does nothing, opting to shore up his liquidity. But as equity prices drop in the second half, he is joined by several previous corporate partners in making a large acquisition in the entertainment/media field by year-end.

15. America's growing dependency on convergence and connectivity (computers control power delivery, communications, aviation and financial services) becomes a battleground and launching pad for a series of cyberterrorism acts by a terrorist group in early 2007.

The first few virtual attacks are ignored and have no effect on the market or on the Internet. However, during a chaotic weeklong period after the July Fourth holiday, an attack renders the Internet partially ineffective, threatening to eradicate crucial information storage bases and to stop commerce and communication.

16. There are several political surprises in 2007. Most significant is that New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, citing personal issues, announces that she will not run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 and that she will throw her support to former Vice President Al Gore's candidacy. Democratic hopefuls Barack Obama, John Kerry, Evan Bayh and Joe Biden do not pursue the nomination, leaving Senator John Edwards as Gore's only viable competition.

On the other side of the ledger, Newt Gingrich is an early aspirant to the Republican nomination and, surprisingly, is in a dead heat in early polls against the favorite, Sen. John McCain, with Mitt Romney and Condoleezza Rice far behind. Rudy Giuliani does not enter the race after a New York Times investigative report uncovers some questionable business dealings.

17. After New York Yankee baseball team owner George Steinbrenner falls seriously ill, SAC Capital Partners' legendary Steve Cohen acquires a majority control of the New York Yankees and, at year-end, retires from active management at his hedge fund.

18. Wal-Mart ( WMT) fails to come out of its funk and reports five consecutive months of negative same-store sales. Overall retail spending follows the housing decline and briefly falls to levels that haven't been seen since the last recession as consumer confidence drops to lows not seen in more than 15 years. Purchases of discretionary items such as motorcycles, high-end kitchen appliances and jewelry suffer.

19. Google ( GOOG) marches on, proving its skeptics wrong, and dramatically exceeds sales, profit and cash-flow expectations. Its shares approach the $650 level by early spring, after rising by more than $100 the day after first-quarter earnings are announced. Though results continue to beat expectations in the second and third quarters, the shares take a large hit after its domination and monopolistic position in search is questioned by legislators in a series of congressional hearings later in the year.

20. Saddam Hussein is assassinated in jail even before his appeal is concluded. Osama Bin Laden is found dead, and initial reports indicate he has been dead for more than 12 months.

21. A series of corruption scandals in Russia hits the emerging markets in 2007, which further exacerbates the impact of uneven worldwide economic conditions and difficulties in the mortgage markets.

22. A large hedge fund lowers its investment management fees (to 0.5%) and incentive fees (to 10%). This effort, combined with the overall market weakness in 2007, leads to a 50% reduction in the number of hedge funds over the next 12 months.

23. With the hedge fund ranks diminished, commodities dropping in value and the appeal for alternative investments (private equity, real estate, etc.) moderating, the bullish chorus for a global liquidity case for equities becomes a faint whisper.

24. Maria Bartiromo leaves CNBC to join Joy Behar, Rosie O'Donnell and Barbara Walters on ABC's "The View." (At the same time, Elisabeth Hasselbeck gets booted off the show!) Another well-known CNBC anchor leaves to join a large hedge fund.

25. Amid the early 2007 stock market euphoria, Jim "El Capitan" Cramer's "Mad Money" show goes prime time on CBS. But it is canceled during the midyear market meltdown and returns to CNBC by the fall. CNBC extends the show to two hours by year-end after Cramer, The Movie reaps $38 million in its first weekend.
At time of publication, Kass and/or his funds were short JPM, MSFT and WSM, although holdings can change at any time.

Doug Kass is founder and president of Seabreeze Partners Management, Inc., and the general partner and investment manager of Seabreeze Partners Short LP and Seabreeze Partners Short Offshore Fund, Ltd. Until 1996, he was senior portfolio manager at Omega Advisors, a $4 billion investment partnership. Before that he was executive senior vice president and director of institutional equities of First Albany Corporation and JW Charles/CSG. He also was a General Partner of Glickenhaus & Co., and held various positions with Putnam Management and Kidder, Peabody. Kass received his bachelor's from Alfred University, and received a master's of business administration in finance from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School in 1972. He co-authored "Citibank: The Ralph Nader Report" with Nader and the Center for the Study of Responsive Law and currently serves as a guest host on CNBC's "Squawk Box."

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