Below is the full 2012 Bespoke Roundtable Q&A with Damien and Derek Hoffman of Wall St. Cheat Sheet.
1) Looking back on 2011, what were your best and worst calls?
Our theme in 2011 was one of a 'mixed bag' market and that is exactly how it unfolded. The trading action was choppy, with no clear consistency for an extended period of time. Domestically, U.S. profits headed upward, yet Europe continued to penetrate fear into the global markets. Our best call in 2011 was sticking with high growth restaurant stock Chipotle, which rose over 58%. We continue to like the long-term growth potential. We were impressed with retailer hhgregg's Q4 performance as well. Meanwhile, we were disappointed in the performance of Microsoft stock. We thought some of its newer catalysts like Windows 7 and Kinect could give the stock a better lift in 2011.
2) What surprised you the most about financial markets in 2011?
I think the late Summer market sell-off caught many investors and traders off guard. The underlying fundamentals of the U.S. economy are improving, but the European fear factor spooked the global markets and caused investors to take sell and ask questions later. Uncertainty is never a good thing for the financial markets.
3) The S&P 500 hit its bull market highs in April 2011. Which will happen first? Will we first take out the April highs or have we entered a new bear market (a decline of 20% from the highs)?
We are more bullish and think the markets can take out the April highs first. The start of 2012 is very different than the start of 2009 when the markets hit rock bottom. The unemployment rate is improving, cash is coming off the sidelines and the U.S. still remains the safest country in the world to park your investment dollars. With a cloud looming over the emerging markets, we see the U.S. markets benefiting from global investment as the slow and steady recovery continues.
4) Depending on your answer to question 3, how long do you expect the bull or bear to last?
Considering the lending rate to investors continues to be at all-time lows, we see a moderately bullish picture in place. Investors will want to put money to work in the capital markets in order to see a solid return on their money. We also think a 2012 Facebook IPO will provide tech leadership to markets and spawn more dealmaking, like Google did in 2003.
5) How should an investor with average risk tolerance be positioned for the year ahead?
With a diversified basket of stocks. There is still room for upside in the precious metals markets. Blue Chip companies with steady dividends are a safe place to play. A retailer like J.C. Penney captures the current discount mindset of the consumer. A food store like Whole Foods is benefiting from the healthy, organic food craze. Then, you have high growth performers in this economy like Apple, Chipotle and hhgregg to consider.
6) How do you see the European sovereign debt crisis playing out in 2012?
7) How bullish or bearish are you on the following markets: The US, Europe, Developed Asia, China, Emerging Markets?
Bullish on the US.