After Busy First Quarter, What's Ahead for Next Three Months?
Oh, what a quarter it's been.
From Libya to Larry Page, markets have absorbed an above-average amount of headlines so far in 2011.
Let's take a quick look at some of the headlines beyond geo-politics and then put on the table what might happen next.
The year began with a Goldman Sachs investment in Facebook that valued it at $50 billion. (It has since gained another $15 billion in value.)
Then, in mid-January, two other tech giants announced changes at the top. Steve Jobs took another medical leave at Apple, while Google released the news that co-founder Larry Page would take over the CEO post from Eric Schmidt. That actually takes effect next week.
Markets, literally, were disrupted about a month later when Deutsche Boerse came public regarding a merger with NYSE Euronext.
Dow component Boeing locked in revenue for years to come when it won the re-fueling tanker contract with the U.S. government, while a month later, investors locked in future revenue when that same government announced that most major banks could resume dividends.
And perhaps, the biggest M-and-A story of the quarter is still making headlines as AT&T's deal for T-Mobile could further transform the ever-changing telecom and wireless industries.
Looking ahead to the second quarter, expect companies to remain active in the market for deals.
"They are looking ahead," said Scott Wren, chief equity strategist at Wells Fargo ."They're not looking at what's going to happen next quarter or two to three quarters from now.
"They're figuring out how to position themselves two years, three years, five years from now."
As for the Larry Page and Steve Jobs news, both Apple and Google under-performed the broader market since the respective news broke.
The question for Q2: What other companies might see changes in the C-Suite?
Porter Bibb of MediaTech Capital Partners has two names, he thinks, should be on your corporate radar.
"Microsoft is running into heavy weather right now with Steve Ballmer," Bibb said. "They have kind of lost their way."
Research in Motion is another one.
"Jim Ballsillie at RIMM is another manager who is way over-spending—two to three times the percentage of revenue that the competition is spending on research and development," said Bibb. "And he is not getting much in terms of results or customer satisfaction."
And that is the key with shocks to systems, markets and governments. Those names might surprise you, but if they were on your radar before reading this, then they wouldn't be a shock.
Geo-politics is a perfect example of this concept.
Egypt, Bahrain, Libya were not front-and-center when it came to investor awareness. That's why all the events jolted us.
Moving forward, just about everyone in the investment world says that problems in Saudi Arabia could further shake up markets. But right now, the threat seems minimal, and it's very much on our collective radar anyway.
So, what isn't that should be?
"The biggest transition that's occuring that needs to be on our radar and isn't is North Korea," said Ian Bremmer of Eurasia Group. "We are in the middle of a transition of a totalarian state to a 27-year old leader. They're also being ignored right now."
"The North Koreans hate it when they're ignored, so the likelihood that they're going to provoke again and act in a beligerent fashion that would really undermine the South Korean economy is something we should take very serious."
Elections in Nigeria is another one to watch.
"There's always reasonable likeihood in an election year in Nigeria that there's going to be more unrest in the delta," Bremmer said. "It's a major oil producing region, and could take more oil off the market."
Follow Brian A. Shactman on Twitter: @bshactman