NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Hardly a day goes by that I'm not asked my thoughts on the market. Will we continue higher or face the music and get hit in the side of the head from a correction?
It's the wrong question to ask because a correct answer won't help most people. The answer isn't as easy as up or down. Regardless of the overall market, there are always opportunities. A better question to ask is, What are the potential risks and rewards available?
I'm not making predictions per se, which is often a useless exercise in isolation. More important for investors, I believe the odds favor an environment that, when combined with consideration of the overall perils and rewards, allows for better decision making.
Gold -- I nailed the fall in the price of gold during 2013. I didn't make a lot of friends among the gold bug community, but my objective isn't to fill the punchbowl -- it's to evaluate, analyze and report my findings.
During 2014, gold will trade for under $1,000 for the first time in over four years absent a "black swan" event. Gold mining stocks see further declines. Don't expect gold falling to 2001 levels though. China, India and other growing economies will effectively place a long-term floor above $700. Once gold stabilizes against the dollar, it becomes even more attractive to Chinese because it no longer fears a rapidly falling price due to the Chinese yuan's strength.
Everyone and their brother has joined the gold bash party of late. It was pretty lonely when I recommended taking profits. It's far from too late, although the risk-to-reward profile isn't as strong.
Health Care -- In 2014, the first of many Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") exchange customers declare bankruptcy from medical bills not covered by their insurance. The news diminishes the argument that the ACA prevents families from financial ruin during a medical emergency. Congress side-steps responsibility by shifting the focus on health insurance policies. Media rhetoric from the upcoming employer mandate in 2015 and increased public frustration results in losses for several tightly contested U.S. Senate races, including Minnesota's Al Franken, in November.
Health insurance companies face a larger-than-expected selection bias, resulting in higher-than-expected claims. Federal funds to offset insurance losses are expended much quicker than anticipated. Medicare patients report nationwide difficulties locating doctors that will accept them and a much longer waiting time to be seen. Health Insurance stock volatility rise due to uncertainty of federal subsidies amounts.
Congress lacks the political will to increase subsidy funding when it becomes obvious the Congressional Budget Office greatly underestimated the costs. The wheels are set in motion to dismantle ACA in an ad hoc piecemeal approach, as Congress so often does.
Energy -- Natural gas prices stabilize as supply and demand reach equilibrium. On the supply side, the pace of new rigs entering production falls as a result of increasing state regulations on fracking and sand production. Natural gas average price is above $4.50 for the first year since 2011, but remains cheap historically.
Ford (F), General Motors (GM), Honda (HMC), Westport (WPRT) and Cummins (CMI) sell record numbers of natural gas-powered vehicles and trucks. Clean Energy Fuels (CLNE) expands its network of fueling stations and surprises analysts to the upside when it becomes profitable in the second half of 2014. Oil and gasoline prices remain low with pump prices averaging under $3, when excluding California.
Banking -- The banking sector continues to profit and repair balance sheets while shrinking in numbers. Unable to compete with greater regulation, including implementation of the Volcker Rule, many smaller banks are bought by larger institution. Look for profitable small regional banks the size of Citizens Community Bancorp (CZWI) and Pathfinder Bancorp (PBHC) as candidates. By the end of 2014, the full impact of the unintended consequences will become apparent and some, but not all, regulations will be rescinded.
Technology -- Apple (AAPL) continues to print money for shareholders as worldwide revenue and profits increase to record amounts. Wall Street falls in love once again, and shares climb above $600.
Apple isn't alone: Microsoft (MSFT) captures greater market share and BlackBerry (BBRY) shares trade over $10 when the company announces it is no longer losing money. Alibaba becomes one of the largest initial public offerings in history, rocketing shares of Yahoo! (YHOO) beyond $60. Alibaba announces entry into the U.S. retail market causing shares of eBay (EBAY) to fall 25% before recovering some of the losses. Amazon (AMZN) doesn't fare as well; shares are cut in half from the late 2013 peak.
At the time of publication the author had no position in any of the stocks mentioned.
This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.