Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Are We Headed for Another Bull Market Year?

The key question facing investors right now -- on the anniversary of a record-breaking stock surge, the best in 75 years -- is whether we’re headed for a second bull-market year.

It’s a battle royale between rising corporate profits -- which are the mother’s milk of stocks, business, and economic growth -- and the high-tax policies pouring out of Washington, aimed at capital gains, dividends, top earners, banks, foreign earnings, and financial transactions. It’s a miserable list of tax hikes.

Then, of course, there’s the looming specter of Obamacare, with all of its high taxes, spending, and regulatory burdens to control almost 20 percent of our nation’s economy. My CNBC pal Jim Cramer says the passage of Obamacare could really damage the bull market. He makes an important point, one with which I totally agree.

Right now, it’s big government versus the free market.

So, will the profits surge, coupled with an accommodative Fed, overcome the Washington tax surge? Will profits trump tax hikes? Is political regime change lingering in the cards? Perhaps a defeat of Obamacare? That would certainly bolster the free market and encourage more investment in stocks, new businesses, and new jobs.

This is the key debate facing investors. Short term, I like stocks. Longer term, it’s a very open and difficult debate.

On another note, I’d like to mention Cisco’s announcement of a new high-tech innovation in the form of a powerful new router. This thing has 12 times the capacity of Cisco’s closest competitor. And get this: It could download the entire Library of Congress in a little over one second. This is a shining example of American ingenuity. But we should reward it, not punish it. Likewise, we should punish failed banks, not reward them.

We also should be reducing excessive government pay and pensions, bringing those federal (as well as state and local) workers in line with the gigantic setbacks suffered by the beleaguered private-sector workforce. Doing so could reduce tax burdens.