Finding reasons not to like the current stock market doesn't take much work, as the faltering U.S. economy, European debt crisis and looming fiscal cliff makes the job pretty easy.
But devising a list to be bullish — after one dismisses the usual "stocks are cheap" and "best house in a bad neighborhood" platitudes — takes some work, especially if your natural inclination is that the market is heading lower.
Nicholas Colas, the ConvergEx chief market strategist and principal wordsmith — his daily research notes are quite likely the most colorful on Wall Street — showed Friday that he's up to the task.
While qualifying that "I personally sympathize with the bearish outlook" for stocks, Colas composed a David Letterman-style Top 10 list that makes a cogent case for the other side.
"For the numerous potential macro dangers that make asset managers go all deer-in-the-headlights, there are some positive fundamentals out there," he said. "Most reside in the U.S. economy, but a few live further afield."
10.Corporations are managing risk and doing more with less. Yes, a form of the "stocks are cheap" argument, but with acknowledgement that a pullback in earningswould still leave companies in solid shape profit-wise.
9.Consumer confidence is still high. Friday's numbers indicated that
8. Gas prices are trending lower. Sure, $3.52 a gallon is still high, but it's 20 cents lower than last month.
7. Forget Facebook, the capital markets are still open "if highly selective." The social network's initial public offering was a flop, but other deals, including Thursday's Felda Global Ventures $3.1 billion IPO, are raising cash.
6. Mortgage rates still falling. Home borrowing ratesat record lows are dragging the industry off its bottom.
5. Mom-and-pop investors are making money, but with bonds. While we've been bemoaning all those fund flows out of equities and into fixed income, it's worked out well for the retail crowd, which now has money it can use to buy stocks.
4. The "Self-Correcting Election." Colas sees the presidential racebetween President Obama and Mitt Romney as a win-win: If Romney wins, the market gets a market-friendly president; if Obama wins it's because the economy has recovered sufficiently to justify his re-election.
3. China is OK, at worst. Despite the talk about a hard-landing, that would still entail 7.5 percent or so growth. Not bad.
2. Lots of Bears. High levels of market sentiment in either direction are generally considered contrarian signals. The mass of doubters indicates that market still has room to rise.
And...the top reason for being bullish:
1. "The end of the world only happens once — Monday probably isn't the day." Through recessions and depressions, flashes and crashes, we seem to persevere. "For all the well-publicized challenges facing markets and investors, financial Armageddon is still an unlikely occurrence," Colas writes. "And even if it does happen, what are the chances you really have enough gold coins, freeze-dried food and double-aught buckshot anyway?
"It is OK to prepare for disasters; just make sure you plan for success as well."
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