At the end of each year, the big financial media outlets typically conduct roundtables to get outlooks from key players in the financial markets.  Over the past few years, the individuals that run the best financial blogs and websites have become key players in their own rights, and their opinions are highly regarded by millions of loyal readers.  This year, we decided to conduct our own roundtable with some of the major names in the online financial community, and it's all available for free to anyone with Internet access!


Twelve of the most popular financial blogs/websites agreed to participate in the roundtable.  Each participant was asked to respond to the same 25 questions regarding their 2010 outlooks as well as their take on 2009.  The responses we got were incredibly insightful, and they should really help investors form their own opinions on what is to come for financial markets in the year ahead. 


Below is a list of our roundtable participants.  We have created a page for each of them that has all of their responses, and we encourage you to visit their websites as well if you haven't already done so. 


A Dash of Insight - 2010 Bespoke Roundtable Q&A

Crossing Wall Street - 2010 Bespoke Roundtable Q&A

Financial Armageddon - 2010 Bespoke Roundtable Q&A - 2010 Bespoke Roundtable Q&A

Paul Kedrosky's Infectious Greed - 2010 Bespoke Roundtable Q&A

Investment Postcards - 2010 Bespoke Roundtable Q&A

The Kirk Report - 2010 Bespoke Roundtable Q&A

Random Roger - 2010 Bespoke Roundtable Q&A

The Reformed Broker - 2010 Bespoke Roundtable Q&A

VIX and More - 2010 Bespoke Roundtable Q&A

Wall St. Cheat Sheet - 2010 Bespoke Roundtable Q&A

World Beta - 2010 Bespoke Roundtable Q&A

To start off the roundtable, we've created a matrix highlighting prognostications for various asset classes in 2010.  Not all participants took part in this section of the Q&A, but the ones that did are included in the matrix below.  As shown, the consensus view is that the S&P 500 will be up in 2010, bonds will be down, oil will be up, the dollar will be up, US home prices will be up, and China's stock market will be up.  The projection for gold was split.  Please visit the individual Q&A pages (links above) to view each participant's projections along with price targets where applicable.

Below we provide various responses to each of the 25 questions.  Remember that there is a Q&A page for each participant that shows all of their responses as well.  The links are posted next to each participant's name above.  Enjoy!


1) What has surprised you the most and least about financial markets in 2009?


Most participants thought that the sharp rally off the March lows without a meaningful correction was the most surprising thing about 2009.  There were a wide range of "least surprising" answers.  Below are a few responses.


Financial Armageddon: Least: The fact that equity investors don't really have a solid grasp of macroeconomics or geopolitics.  Most: The willingness of policymakers and investors to repeat the same mistakes that helped bring about the worst financial crisis this century.


Footnoted: Obama's seemingly uncanny ability to call the bottom of the market (most).  How some executives still don't seem to get the fact that outrageous perks, including tax gross-ups are disgusting (least).


Infectious Greed: How quickly U.S. consumers began spending again.  Maybe it's true that U.S. consumers can't stay downbeat more than 18 months.


Random Roger: The size of the rally off of the March low has been the biggest surprise.  After events like 2008, massive rallies are very normal, but the lack of a meaningful correction along the way has been surprising.


The Reformed Broker: The market's ability to put the blinders on and rip for 10 months has to have surprised everyone, myself included.  I'm least surprised by the resumption of the commodity obsession that was abruptly put on pause in the heat of the credit crisis.  It came back without missing a beat.


A Dash of Insight: My biggest surprise was the short honeymoon for the Obama Administration and the stock market reaction.  For me, the least surprising thing was the general improvement in the economy and stocks throughout the year.


2) What do you believe are the most important lessons to be learned from the 08/09 financial crisis?


All of the responses to this question are worth reading, and they are listed below.


A Dash of Insight: We learned what happens when you get a complete cessation of lending in an economy that depends upon normal and sensible borrowing for regular commerce.


Crossing Wall Street: When market participants panic, governments panic as well.  Not a new lesson but a good example of an old one.


Financial Armageddon: 1) The mistakes of the past have a habit of repeating themselves.  2) Bad policies beget bad outcomes.  3) While there may be free money, there's no such thing as a free lunch.


Footnoted: Greed isn't always good - sometimes it leads to serious problems.  Greenspan wasn't the maestro he was made out to be.  There's only so much crap that even skilled hucksters can repackage and sell.


Infectious Greed: 1) Don't watch television.  I'm kidding.  Mostly.  2) You can know that an epochal bubble exists, and you can know how to profit from its looming decline, but time the trade wrong and you might as well have stayed home that decade.  3) Credit rating agencies are a pro-cyclical disaster.


Investment Postcards: Banks' financial statements do not necessarily reflect the true financial picture.  Geared hedge funds are responsible for extreme excesses in financial markets.  Failure by central banks to enforce their monetary policy on banks as executors thereof eventually leads to financial and economic disaster.


Kirk Report: 1) Capital preservation is always more important than capital accumulation.  2) Wall Street is undergoing changes in ways that will make our markets more volatile than ever before.  3) America has significant challenges that must be addressed to restore its economic leadership over the world.  If nothing is done, the standard of living for most of its population will be in decline over the next decade.


Random Roger: The details causing the crisis were different but the behavior of the market was not.  Human behaviors repeat over and over, misusing leverage as one example.  People have very short memories with regards to market turmoil.

The Reformed Broker: 1) Someone who went to Wharton can just as easily lose you all of your money as anyone else.  2) Someone who sits on charitable foundations regulatory boards of directors can rob you blind.  3) When rich people panic, really bad decisions are made with taxpayer money.


Vix and More: 1) Always know your exits (especially where to take losses) in advance and do not deviate from the plan.  2) In a fat tails environment, the feedback effects will trump the underlying economics for an extended period.  3) Disasters almost always happen in stages.


Wall St. Cheat Sheet: Risk management, Risk management, Risk management.  If you have any money in speculative products such as financial investments, you MUST have a stop loss point that allows you to call timeout and reevaluate the situation.  Trends and emotions can always go much farther than we expect, so we need to have a simple line in the sand which acts as complete protection against the unexpected.  Since most of us are not psychic, the unexpected is always around the corner.


World Beta:  Avoid losing money.  Investors dislike losses much more than they enjoy their gains.  If investors and advisors were to design portfolios with that fact in mind, they would be much more proactive about managing their risk rather than maximizing their gains.


3) How has the 08/09 bear market impacted your view on asset allocation and investing as a whole?


The financial crisis caused nearly all asset classes to fall in tandem.  Vix and More explains, "Asset allocations are of limited value when most assets become highly correlated."  Below are a few more responses.


Kirk Report: The same methods that served me well continue to do so.  However, I think it is clear to most by now that 1) proper risk management is the most important part of investing successfully, and 2) trading the market you see not the market you expect to see is key.


Infectious Greed: If cash was king before, now it's moved up to godliness.


Investment Postcards: Disaster protection is non-negotiable in any fund.  Gold and mature market bonds have claimed their rightful place in investment portfolios.


Wall St. Cheat Sheet: The key is not playing head games such as, "If I had twice as much in the market, I would have made X," or, "If I was fully invested I would have made Y."  Who cares?  If you have protected your capital in extraordinary times and can make some nice profits, you are a big winner. Rather than having your capital wrapped up in funds or blue chips which are still underwater since 2007, you are sitting pretty for when the economy truly starts another secular bull market.


The Reformed Broker: I've been forced to relearn tactical allocation concepts and market timing strategies that had collected dust in the corner of my mind for a long time.


4) What are the various indicators that you follow closely telling you right now about where the stock market is headed?  Which indicator is the most significant in what it is forecasting?


Nearly all respondents said that the key indicators they follow are currently bullish.


Crossing Wall Street: The most important, by far, is the yield curve.  With T-bills going for free, it's hard to bet against stocks.


Kirk Report: I follow fundamental, technical, and sentiment indicators in my approach.  The most interesting right now has to be sentiment.  Most investors still do not trust the market and are skeptical of the economy.  Meanwhile, the professional who can't afford to produce underperformance following disasters in 2008 has no choice but to stay up with the market.  Herding groupthink at its finest on both ends.


5) Starting with 100% cash, how would you allocate it to various asset classes to start the new year?


Not everyone answered this question, but below are some suggestions.


A Dash of Insight: I see this as a good time for stocks, so give that a plus 10% or so from whatever is the starting point.  If you are normally 55% in stocks, this year should be 65%.  The main alternative is corporate bonds and financial preferreds.  These still have nice yields.  You have to watch carefully if the Fed starts to raise rates.


Crossing Wall Street: 100% stocks.


Financial Armageddon: As follows: 60% Treasury bills, 25% bearish stock market ETFs, and 15% gold.


Vix and More: My 2010 allocation is overweight in all types of commodities and emerging market equities, as well as underweight in U.S. Treasuries and cash.


Investment Postcards: Gold 10%, Government bonds 6%, Real estate 10%, Equities 50%, Cash 24%.


World Beta: We follow a tactical approach that trades equities, bonds, real estate, commodities, and currencies.  It trades dynamically, and while currently fully invested (and short the dollar), that can change very quickly.


6) What do you believe will be the dominant investing themes of 2010?  What will be the biggest surprises of 2010?


Financial Armageddon: Dominant themes: The growing relevance of social, political, and geopolitical risks.  Fallout from the next leg down in the economy.  Biggest surprise: The beginning of the end of monetary union in Europe (and the euro).


A Dash of Insight: I expect a general economic recovery with a lot of skepticism.  It will probably extend all year.  Health stocks will do well after a resolution on health reform.


Crossing Wall Street: Not a major theme, but I expect a new-found love for dividends. 


Infectious Greed: 1) The dollar rules/sucks: I expect the dollar to continue to be at the forefront of all kinds of sovereign and market nervousness in 2010.  2) Commercial real estate collapse: It's coming, but extend and pretend can go on longer than you think. 3) China bubble: It's real, but markets can stay irrational longer than you can stay (skeptically) solvent.


The Kirk Report: Cloud Computing, Clean Energy, Energy Infrastructure, Battery Development, Healthcare.


Random Roger: I think the dollar will become much less important than it has been in the last few months. 


The Reformed Broker: I think food-related commodities could be a dominant theme as urbanization, rising middle class incomes and aberrant weather conditions in the developing world could take center stage.  A big surprise (that I would not predict) would be a scorching hot economy in the US.  That would be a shocker, and I don't know a soul who is predicting it.


7) What is your current view on Buy & Hold as an investment strategy?


With markets flat over the last decade and a shift to what many call a "trader's market," we wanted to know what our roundtable participants thought about Buy & Hold. 


Crossing Wall Street: Depends on what you buy and what you hold.  I've written before on this.  My view of B&H isn't terribly high, but it's still slightly higher than the track record of market timers.


Financial Armageddon: Buy & hold is dead and buried.


Infectious Greed: The same as it has always been: It's the main reason that the mutual fund business stays in business.


The Reformed Broker: Rest in Peace.  The global macro picture is too important to ignore now.


Wall St. Cheat Sheet: In one sense, 2008 proved that Buy & Hold is BS.  In another sense, if you are under 50 and started buying ETFs and indexes in equal tranches each month since Feb/March 2009, you should be in good shape in another decade or so.  A friend of mine started stuffing all her extra money into the market in Feb/March.  She's in great shape right now.  Oh yeah...she works in the boating industry and knows absolutely nothing about investing except she called me and said, "If I buy now, it should work out well at some point in the next 20 years, right?"  I think it will.  The key is the "at some point" part.


World Beta: Anyone that has a different view of buy and hold now than they did pre-crisis isn't a student of history.  Every asset class is good sometimes, and horrendous other times.


8) What do you believe is the contrarian call on equities right now?  The economy?  Is investor sentiment currently misplaced?


More and more investors are calling themselves "contrarian," almost to a point where the "contrarian" viewpoint might actually be in the majority.  Below are some of the responses we got for our question on what the current contrarian call is for stocks and the economy.


Financial Armageddon: Equities: new lows (below the March lows) in 2010.  Economy: double-dip recession (or worse) and an ongoing rise in unemployment throughout 2010 and beyond.


A Dash of Insight: There are many popular sentiment indicators, but they all have flaws.  I talk to many clients and potential clients, and I also watch what is working in the media.  There is a high level of skepticism about the economy.  Many investors "missed the rally" and now believe they are too late to make significant gains.  Many pros and leading bloggers hated the rally all the way, seeing it (incorrectly in my view) as disconnected from "the fundamentals."  In short, there is still a wall of worry, a pre--condition for the rally to continue.


Infectious Greed: The contrarian call continues to be that equities go to higher levels.  The bear side is still crowded, especially at the retail end.


The Kirk Report: That the market's performance in 2010 will greatly exceed the performance in 2009.  The same is true for the economy.  Individual investors have the view that market performance should be directly tied to what they're seeing in the economy.  While that may be true over the long run, in the short-term it is all about emotions and perception.


Random Roger: Contrarian for equities would be a decline that goes back to the old low.  Contrarian for the economy would be job growth.  Just a note: I don't think either one will happen.


Vix and More: One of the more unusual features of the current investment environment is the preponderance of extreme viewpoints - both bearish and bullish.  Normally investor expectations fall into a familiar bell-shaped (Gaussian) distribution.  At the moment, however, investor sentiment looks more like a barbell distribution, with a high percentage of extreme perspectives relative to middle-of-the-road perspectives.


Wall St. Cheat Sheet: The new hot thing is to be contrarian about everything - or even a contrarian of contrarians.  Especially in the blogosphere.  The problem is sometimes contrarianism works (shorting at the end of a bull market), and sometimes it does not (shorting since March).  Case in point: Nouriel Roubini - who is the biggest fraud of the decade next to Jim Cramer - has been negative on oil and stocks since March.  If you read his 2005 paper co-authored by Brad Setzer, you will see how contrarianism can make you broke if you are a trader, but famous if you are an academic with an understanding for how PR works.  In short, if you followed a contrarian like Roubini in any year EXCEPT the end of 2007 through the market crash, you'd have been in deep [fill in the blank].


9) Which sectors should investors be overweight/underweight heading into 2010?


A Dash of Insight: The best sectors are cyclicals with good leverage on operating earnings, technology for the business reinvestment, and health care.  Energy could be good later in the year.  Having a touch of biotech is fine.  Smaller companies with good pipelines are takeover candidates.  I do not see the point in buying "defensive" stocks in preference to corporate bonds.


Kirk Report: Underweight precious metals and weak dollar plays.  Overweight technology and healthcare.


Reformed Broker: I'm getting interested in agricultural names again.  Domestic natural gas producers are interesting as a result of Exxon's buyout of XTO.  I'd still be underweight the US consumer as I don't believe the employment stats at all.  I think the massage team is working overtime.  I also think Bill Gross' out-of-bonds-into-utilities-stocks theme will be big as the bond bonanza of 2009 unwinds and people search for better yield.  I also think Cloud Computing will be a major tech theme.


Vix and More: Overweight: emerging Asia; emerging Latin America; crude oil exploration and production; industrial metals; silver; lumber; consumer discretionary/retail; semiconductors; homebuilders.  Also, alternative energy and nanotechnology will get a second wind.  Underweight: U.S. Treasuries (long end of the yield curve); commercial real estate; regional banks.


Random Roger: After such a big sector event (implosion of financials), I think sector selection will be a little less important for a while.  What I think will be more important will be country selection.  To your question, I think the less volatile sectors will make the most sense (telecom, utilities, healthcare and staples).


Financial Armageddon: Assuming they are invested in equities at all (which I don't advocate), defensive sectors such as food, tobacco, alcohol (not premium brands), and (relatively) non-discretionary consumer products.


10) What is in store for the US economy in 2010 (V-shaped, double dip, U-shaped)? 


A Dash of Insight: The best evidence suggests that we will have a continuing and gradual economic recovery.  The data points will not all line up.  Most economic data has "noise."  Every time a report represents a slight downtick there will be a hue and cry.  We can expect the debate about the economy to continue all year.


Vix and More: 2010 will see a slow and steady recovery, with jobs coming back earlier than expected.  The growth trajectory will be erratic, but by the end of the year, the story will surpass the estimates of most pundits.


Random Roger: If you read what Mauldin has been saying, then it would seem impossible; we would need to create 250,000 jobs per month for several years to get back down to 5% unemployment. Whatever progress is made will not be viewed as overwhelmingly positive.


Kirk Report: Large scale volatility (ups and downs) both for the market itself and for the economy.


Investment Postcards: V-shaped.


Infectious Greed: We will almost certainly see a jobs recovery by middle of year, but we won't budge much off current lows.


Financial Armageddon: Double-dip, with at least three quarters of negative real growth.  Early signs of a disturbing uptick in inflation (more towards the latter half of the year).


11) Will we see a jobs recovery in 2010?


Footnoted: I think the unemployment rate will recover a bit, but it will mask the fact that many of these people who have gone back to work are making less and in many cases, and doing so with fewer (or no) benefits.


Financial Armageddon: No.  More likely, we will see monthly nonfarm payroll losses move back toward the levels we saw in the spring of 2009.


Wall St. Cheat Sheet: If you move to India, China, Canada, Singapore, or similar countries, you should see a nice recovery in jobs. 


Kirk Report: Yes.  The government will manufacture the numbers to support continued stimulus and easy Fed policy for as long as possible.


Investment Postcards: Yes.  A recovery in employment in the US manufacturing sector is already evident.  Layoffs in the non-manufacturing sector are diminishing fast.  With the total inventory-to-sales ratio approaching normal levels, inventory shedding will come to a close.


12) The real estate market has seemingly taken a back seat in terms of media coverage at the moment.  What's in store for real estate in 2010, and how will it impact your investment decisions?


A Dash of Insight: There is a national policy to support home ownership in a multitude of ways.  Whether or not we agree with this, it is a fact of life.  The market it stabilizing in most of the country.


Vix and More: Residential real estate will begin to show solid growth in the third quarter.


Footnoted:  Well, I'm still looking for that perfect beach house in Florida that I can pick up for a song.  But all of the REO that seems to be left is utter crap that I think will never be sold, even at rock-bottom prices, which will continue to be a drag on the economy.


Investment Postcards: With CPI inflation expected to gain momentum, real estate's qualities as an inflation hedge are likely to come to the fore.


Wall St. Cheat Sheet: It seems those with deep pockets will look like geniuses in 40 years.


Infectious Greed: It's a complete mess.  In other words, it's hard to imagine how real estate equities go higher from here.  Really.


Financial Armageddon: Wipeout in CRE; slow but steady deterioration in residential real estate.


Reformed Broker: Commercial is going to have its nuclear winter in 2010.  This is a good thing and long overdue. 


13) When will the Fed begin to raise rates, and will this be too early, late, or just about right?


The Fed has stated that rates aren't moving anytime soon.  Our roundtable participants are mostly of a similar view.


Kirk Report: The Fed will not raise rates.  In fact, they may even lower them further through other methods.  For example, I expect mortgage rates to be under 3% by the end of 2010.


Vix and More: The Fed will be wary of raising rates too soon and will act conservatively with respect to any inflationary signs.  I do not expect to see any rate hikes before the third quarter at the earliest, with the first hike most likely to come in Q4, but perhaps not until 2011.


Reformed Broker: If Bernanke has the guts, I'd love to see him go to 1% just to show the world that we can.


Financial Armageddon: What the Fed does will be irrelevant.  Market and other forces will dictate what happens to rates during 2010.


A Dash of Insight: I have some clear advice for investors:  Ignore this background noise!  If you want to make successful investments, the job is to predict the Fed, not to criticize the decisions.


14) How worried are you about inflation?


Crossing Wall Street: For the short and intermediate term, not at all.  The inflation fears in the media are vastly overblown.  NAIRU is probably around 5.5%, and we're not in much danger of that anytime soon.


Kirk Report: I am not worried.  It rarely pays to be worried about something that everyone else is already worried about.


Wall St. Cheat Sheet: Not worried enough to stockpile guns, food, and gold.  But enough to be heavily trading precious metals.


Random Roger: We have inflation (increase in the money supply).  So the question is does it get away from them and lead to higher prices.  My thought all along is price inflation will be higher than what we have been used to for the last 10-15 years, but it will not become a problem anywhere close to hyper-inflation.  This will mean generally higher rates but not 20%, which would then create a drag, not a deathblow, for the economy.


Vix and More: Inflation is not a major concern in 2010.  It becomes a much larger issue in 2011 and a critical issue in 2012.


Financial Armageddon: Over the next six months, not much; longer-term, there is a real and growing risk of hyperinflation.


Investment Postcards: Very afraid.


15) How worried are you about the decline of the dollar, and do you see the greenback making a comeback in 2010?


Investment Postcards: Not too worried.  The US needed a weaker dollar as a stimulatory measure to support exports.  Yes, the dollar is likely to strengthen from the end of the first quarter 2010.


Crossing Wall Street: Not worried so far, but I soon may be.  The dollar is higher than it was in early 2008 versus many currencies, but the outlook is not very bright.  A turn against the dollar could turn into a rout.


Random Roger: Fundamentally I cannot make any argument for dollar strength, but there can always be a powerful multi-month trend for any asset, including the dollar.


Wall St. Cheat Sheet: Fiat money is like religion: you need blind faith to make it work.  At the moment, the greenback has lost followers.  So much so, that many people are shopping for a new religion.  The greenback has decreased over 95% in value since it was first disconnected from gold, and I can't imagine much changing if those who understand the system continue to print for their benefit.


16) What are your current thoughts on gold - bubble, just the beginning, or just about fair valued?


Financial Armageddon: Short term, it can best be described as bubble-esque and due for a major correction; long term, the prospect of rampant inflation, as well as increasing social, political, and geopolitical instability, suggest the sky is the limit as far as the price of gold is concerned.


Vix and More: While there are some elements of a gold bubble, continued strong central bank and investor demand will mean sustained higher prices.  Silver should be an even better investment in 2010.


Kirk Report: We are probably still only in the early innings of this bubble.  The sector is good for traders with tight risk controls, and a nightmare for others who will chase the returns and get killed when people rush for the exit door.


A Dash of Insight: Inflation fears and panic both drive gold prices.  Both are currently overstated, but it is not a bubble.  People see too many bubbles!


Wall St. Cheat Sheet: Gold will also benefit from the Bespoke stat that the US is spending $1.90 for every $1.00 it earns.


17) Oil has largely been forgotten given the current focus on gold and the dollar.  Will the price of oil have a major impact on stocks and the economy in 2010?


Financial Armageddon: Predicting where oil is headed is a tough call, but my best guess is that we will see a sizeable correction in the first half of 2010 as oil tracks the stock market and the economy lower.  Afterwards, I see the potential for a major rally, spurred by growing turmoil (and possibly war) in the Mideast (and elsewhere), which will boost inflation, hurt growth, and weigh on share prices.


Wall St. Cheat Sheet: Again, I don't know if it will in 2010.  But it surely will once economic production picks up.  We are a ways off from alternative energy contributing in a meaningful way.  That means oil is the default feedstock of choice.  Once we can harness the power of the sun, oil is headed toward $0.  Until then, supply, demand, and propaganda will keep it in play.


Vix and More: At $90-95 per barrel by the end of 2010, crude oil will exert some pressure on consumers and businesses in the coming year.  Next year is just the beginning of this trend, however, as oil will exert a larger drag on the economy in 2011 and the years that follow.


Reformed Broker: A big rise in oil is probably the headwind I'm most concerned about for the under siege consumer.  That said, the stock market seems to like higher oil these days.


A Dash of Insight: We were near an important tipping point in the price of oil before the economic collapse.  We'll see this again, but perhaps only hints of it in 2010.  As a nation, and as a world, we are not very good at solving problems without a slap in the face. 


18) We've just gone through a decade where emerging markets largely outperformed the G-7 countries.  Do you foresee this trend continuing in the coming years, or will developed countries begin to make a comeback?


A Dash of Insight: This is outside of my own happy zone so I have no strong opinion, but long term, I like to play international themes via US companies with strong international exposure.


Random Roger: Emerging can outperform as well as G-7 start to come back.  I think emerging will outperform and the G-7 countries will have below normal growth for an extended period, but growth nonetheless.  It may not start for another year or so.


Vix and More: Emerging markets are one of my top picks in 2010.  While the ride will be bumpy at times, emerging markets - particularly in Asia and Latin America - should outperform developing markets for the next few years.


Financial Armageddon: In 2010 and 2011, I expect emerging markets to be hit harder than their developed counterparts; in the long-term, however, prospects for many emerging markets are much brighter.


Wall St. Cheat Sheet: I think the US will now follow all other mature empires like Italy, Spain, and England.  Our people have lost a lot of their ambition, and we spend countless hours hating new waves of immigrants who come here with the determination and work ethic of our ancestors.  That special spirit is alive in emerging markets. But I don't feel it so much at home.  That's not to say there aren't any hard workers in the US.  Clearly there are.  I just think things have changed when we speak about the spirit of the nation.


Infectious Greed: Developed countries will make a moderate comeback, and developing markets will see some fireworks, likely led by China.


19) Which emerging markets are you most/least excited about heading into the next decade?


Most respondents were generally bullish on BRIC and Frontier countries, although there were more than a few who did not like Russia.  For more details, please see the individual interviews.


A Dash of Insight: One way or another, everyone should have some BRIC exposure.


Kirk Report: Most excited about India.  Least excited about Russia.


Investment Postcards: Most Excited about India, South Korea, Vietnam, China, Brazil, and South Africa.  Least excited about Russia.


20) At the peak of the crisis, the prevailing theory was that Wall Street was dead as we knew it.  After the rebound we've seen, many people think it's now back to business as usual.  What are your thoughts on this?


Crossing Wall Street: Not only are we back to the old times, but it's even more so.


A Dash of Insight: There will always be bright people attracted to the best firms.  The Street will meet demand - and perhaps create demand.


Vix and More: So far, Wall Street has operated in a manner that is closer to 'business as usual' than I had expected.  The big questions are around the changes in the regulatory environment going forward.  With the Democrats losing their power and the mid-term elections nearing, I suspect reforms will be rather limited in scope.


Financial Armageddon: Wall Street might think the nightmare is over; in my view, it's only just begun.


Reformed Broker: Investment banking has probably seen its salad days for a long time to come other than M&A.  A great many who were involved in "financial engineering" may want to get their taxi medallion license.


Wall St. Cheat Sheet: I am actually writing a rebuttal to Michael Lewis' excellent essay "The End."  Although I highly respect Lewis and his thoughts, I think he is dead wrong about Wall Street changing forever. That's like saying we've abolished greed.  No way.  It's human nature.  It may ebb and flow, but there will always be a crop of people mesmerized by the lure of fame and riches.


21) What will be the biggest impact Washington has on Wall Street in 2010?


Kirk Report: If they pass any trader tax (which I don't think they will this year, but probably will eventually), it would have huge ramifications for individual investors and the market place.


Reformed Broker: Washington is Wall Street until everything's been paid back and the nation has a new crisis to focus on.  Until then, the two are indistinguishable. 


A Dash of Insight: Right or wrong, the Obama Administration focused on restoring confidence through capital infusions and stress-testing.  There is an obvious need for a new policy to avoid the Lehman-type problem.


Footnoted: More regulation - the question in my mind however is whether it will be the right regulation or whether it will just be more political posturing by Congress.


Financial Armageddon: Out of fear of not being re-elected - and, perhaps, far worse - Washington will be forced to acknowledge the anti-Wall Street backlash and defy its financial sector paymasters.  There will be growing populist pressure to scapegoat, tax, restrict, and punish the moneyed interests.


22) What do you think are currently the biggest disconnects between Wall Street and Main Street?  Wall Street and Washington?  Washington and Main Street?  How can we correct this?


Infectious Greed: Endless disconnects all around.  I hardly know where to start, but let's start with the most serious one: Wall Street and Main Street think each other are stupid and crooks and are to be barely tolerated.  Then again, both Wall Street and Main Street agree that politicians are pernicious nitwits, so that is slightly reassuring.


Wall St. Cheat Sheet: Culture.  I have been fortunate to spend quality time with friends and family of very different socio-economic status.  Each tier lives in a very different social reality. The incentives are very different.  Although now is a popular time to bash the government, the one silver lining of our governors is they work for us - that's why we call them "representatives."  No matter how much lobbying money a company spends, if the voters band together and raise the heat, the voters get what they want.  Look at Big Tobacco.


Reformed Broker: Main Street got hosed in both the bailout AND the recovery.  The stimulus and rescue plans were conducted in a vacuum; no one running a small business (outside of the auto dealerships) has seen an ounce of assistance.  Hence the underemployment rate in the high teens.


Kirk Report: The powerful are getting more powerful.  The rich are getting richer.  That's always been true, but the trend will become even stronger in the years to come. 


23) Will the following be up or down (positive or negative) in 2010?  Where noted, what are your 2010 year-end target prices?


See matrix.


24) Please provide readers with any stock ideas that you really like right now and for 2010 and beyond (and why).


Please see individual interviews.


25) Do you have any other advice that you would like to share with readers heading into next year?


Financial Armageddon: If the past two years have taught you nothing else, make sure you take a long, hard look at each and every one of your assumptions, and acknowledge the fact that low risk is not the same as no risk.


Reformed Broker: My advice is to be wary of themes that become so ubiquitous that everyone else is piling in.  Just when something becomes widely-accepted conventional wisdom, it usually stops working.  Also, listen to your parents, they are almost always right.


Random Roger: Whatever you felt as the market was hitting its lows, you will feel again at some point in the future and then again in another cycle after that.  Market events that scare the hell out of people bringing calls that this time is different happen over and over.  The details are different but the markets are not. 


Kirk Report: In every year, the market provides one or two excellent buying opportunities while the rest of the time investors would be well-served by staying patient.  Focus yourself on finding and exploiting only the low risk/high reward opportunities,and you'll have a great year in 2010!


World Beta: "And joy is, after all, the end of life.  We do not live to eat and make money.  We eat and make money to be able to live.  That is what life means and what life is for."  - George Mallory

We would like to thank all of our roundtable participants for making this a great report!  Below we once again provide links to their sites and individual Q&As.


A Dash of Insight - 2010 Bespoke Roundtable Q&A

Crossing Wall Street - 2010 Bespoke Roundtable Q&A

Financial Armageddon - 2010 Bespoke Roundtable Q&A - 2010 Bespoke Roundtable Q&A

Paul Kedrosky's Infectious Greed - 2010 Bespoke Roundtable Q&A

Investment Postcards - 2010 Bespoke Roundtable Q&A

The Kirk Report - 2010 Bespoke Roundtable Q&A

Random Roger - 2010 Bespoke Roundtable Q&A

The Reformed Broker - 2010 Bespoke Roundtable Q&A

VIX and More - 2010 Bespoke Roundtable Q&A

Wall St. Cheat Sheet - 2010 Bespoke Roundtable Q&A

World Beta - 2010 Bespoke Roundtable Q&A

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