from Doug Kass:
A few weeks prior to the markets hitting a generational low a year ago, I created a watch list that enabled me to better gauge the bottom.
Now, nearly 13 months later and with the S&P 500 almost 500 points higher, it is time to focus on a new checklist of some potential adverse developments that could contribute to a market top and a reversal of investors' good fortunes since March 2009.
- Interest Rates: The yield on the 10-year U.S. note might climb to over 4% (now at 3.85%). A 4.00% to 4.25% yield would likely provide a tipping point for increased competition to equities and produce an interest (mortgage) rate headwind to the nascent housing recovery at a time when stock dividend yields have nearly halved and when a large phantom inventory of unsold homes is about to begin to enter the residential for-sale market.
- Jobs / Economy: A more sluggish-than-expected expansion in new jobs and the weight of higher taxes in 2011 might translate to a downturn in consumer confidence, reduced business fixed investment and a more shallow domestic economic recovery in the second half of this year.
- Retail: Cautious forward comp guidance in retail could reverse the February-March strength.
- Europe: There could be growing signs of weakness in the European economies.
- Credit: Over there, we might witness evidence of more sovereign (Spain?) crises, and, over here, we could see more U.S. municipal -- the universe is large! -- financial woes. Forced austerity measures would likely produce lower growth.
- Credit (Part Deux): Credit spreads might widen.
- Geopolitical: We could see a possible rise in geopolitical tensions or even another terrorist act on our shore.
- Monetary Policy: We might have a less dovish Fed in words (jawboning) and in action (through an increase in the federal funds rate).
- Tightening Abroad: It is likely that central banks around the world will begin to clench their monetary fist, especially in China.
- Protectionism, Trade and Currency Wars: Things might get ugly, especially on the U.S. / China front.
- Housing: A renewed leg down in home prices is possible as the spring selling season could fail to appear. (It hasn't gotten off to a great start.)
- Sentiment: We could witness the birth of a 5x to 10x levered bullish ETF, a burst in bullish investor sentiment, an expansion in hedge fund net long positions, a further drawdown in mutual fund cash positions, a meaningful increase in retail mutual fund equity inflows and massive outflows out of Rydex bear funds.
- Technical: Stocks could fail to respond to good news, suggesting that the sharp corporate profit recovery has been baked into prices. A breakdown in financials and/or transports could occur. Overseas markets might fail to make new highs, or we could see a further contraction in NYSE / Nasdaq exchange volume.
- Deflation: Industrial commodity prices could weaken.
- Speculation: We might see an increasingly speculative market for low-price issues.
- Underwritings: The emergence of a record syndicate calendar is possible.
- Wall Street: A substantial increase in Wall Street industry hirings could be announced.
- Dr. Doom vs. the Sunshine Boys: Dr. Nouriel Roubini could see green shoots, causing bullish strategists and money managers to demonstrate even more swagger. Reminiscent of late 1998, a sell-side analyst (perhaps the new Henry Blodgett) might raise his 12-month Apple (AAPL) price target to $375 a share, leading another analyst to top that target and move to $400 a share a week later.
- The Media: CNBC could throw another celebratory party. Time magazine might declare the death of the bear market on its cover or run a cover story offering a new bullish economic and/or stock market paradigm. Sir Larry Kudlow could have trouble finding a single bear to appear on CNBC's "The Kudlow Report." Record ratings might induce the management of CNBC to expand "Squawk Box" from three hours to four hours (6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.) and add an additional anchor to join Joe, Becky and Carl.
- Dougie: Maybe I turn bullish.