I recently wrote that plans to fire lots of workers won't solve the underlying problem at Pfizer ( PFE) and Motorola ( MOT): lousy product innovation.

If you survey the stock market landscape, you'll find more former predictable growth stocks that now offer the same uncertainty that Pfizer and Motorola do. That, of course means that an investor shouldn't pay the same high price-to-earnings ratio now for the less predictable growth of a Coca-Cola ( KO), a Citigroup ( C), an Intel ( INTC) or a Dell ( DELL).

And it means that the relatively fewer growth companies still pumping out predictable double-digit growth, such as a Procter & Gamble ( PG) or a PepsiCo ( PEP), deserve a higher multiple.

The most interesting -- and potentially most profitable -- cases are those once-great predictable growth companies that are now on the cusp. Will a company such as McDonald's ( MCD) return to the ranks of those companies able to produce predictable double-digit growth? Should investors think of Cisco Systems ( CSCO) as belonging to this category? And is Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ) going to defy skeptics and keep pumping out that growth?

Sometimes it feels like the universe of great, predictable growth stocks has become very small indeed. But, fortunately, investors are witnessing the emergence of a new generation of growth stocks in the developing economies of the world. That's a topic for another day, however.

New Developments on Past Columns

" Five Buys for a Fourth-Quarter Rally ": There's no place to hide, but a few spots in the supply chain do provide some shelter from the storm. In 2006, the average selling price for a 42-inch LCD television fell by almost 50%, according to iSuppli. That crushed profit margins at the companies that manufacture the sets.

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