The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- We're all feeling pretty good, and why not? There's plenty to be happy about. The markets are up more than 10%. Economic data in the U.S. is improving almost as rapidly as the European debt crisis is fading. The turmoil in the Middle East, though roiling, never seems to attain the status of an actual crisis. Unfortunately, markets are largely inert: They don't look backward. They barely react to what is happening in the present. Any semblance of actualization they have is reserved for the future, for trying to interpret what is going to happen. And the future right now holds a hint of trouble that could deliver a repeat of 2011's summer sell-off and market volatility.
My working thesis is that if we hit or exceed this number for the first quarter of 2012, the fix is in, and we are headed for some near-term trouble. And if this eventuality comes to pass, here are some stocks and sectors to consider as you assume a defensive posture. Retailers: Look to those focused on high and low-end consumers. Dollar Tree ( DLTR) and Tiffany's ( TIF) are two favorites (we own DLTR). Utilities: Nothing makes you feel safer than the steady pulse of energy coursing across the grid and leaving dividends and stable earnings in its wake, especially in troubled times. Entergy ( ETR) and Exelon ( EXC) are utility companies among our holdings. Pharmaceuticals: Especially, big pharma. When the times get tough, consumers leave Carnival Cruise Lines at the dock for more important purchases such as Lexapro. Pick big pharma stocks with good growth and good dividends and you're unlikely to go wrong as consumers favor discretionary spending for necessities. Abbott Labs ( ABT) is one of our top holdings. For more on these ideas and others, tune into our daily radio program at 10:00 AM weekdays on www.financialtalkshow.com. Follow me on Twitter @opursche.