The flow of market forecasting is at its peak as we close out 2011 and look at the year ahead. Generally speaking, most outlooks fall safely within the bounds of existing consensus or conventional wisdom.
Reuters recently reported 2012 expectations showed an average anticipated return for the S&P 500 next year as a gain of about 7.5%, right smack in the middle of what you might call the cautiously optimistic camp.
It's rare to come across professionals who are willing to risk their reputation and make bold forecasts in public, which is why Todd Schoenberger of LandColt Trading caught our attention.
"We're predicting the S&P 500 will be down 20% by mid-year, and by the end of the year, we'll be down 35%," Schoenberger says in the attached video. "Buyer beware."
While many point to the upcoming election year and the typical bounce that comes with it, Schoenberger reminds us of 2008 and the 37% decline on the Dow Jones Industrial Average. So just as investors are beginning to see what might be light at the end of the tunnel, and consumer confidence has rebounded to a 6 month high, Schoenberger's bearishness seems out of sync.
"Here's the thing, the debt issue is poison, not just to the economy and national security around the globe, but to the stock market," he says. "Revenues are going to take a big hit next year."
He's also convinced that the U.S. will slide in to recession in 2012, pointing out that since 1948, anytime GDP has slipped below 2% the U.S. economy has always ended up in a recession. The number right now is at 1.6%.
Interestingly, Citigroup just published a forecast projecting 6 quarters of recession in Europe starting next year. This is part of the reason why Schoenberger is avoiding the same multi-national names that have been the favorites of 2011, including Macke-fave McDonald's (MCD) which he says gets 40% of its earnings from Europe.
"Guess what's happening in Europe?" he asks rhetorically. "A recession will have a big impact on a stock like McDonald's."
Instead, he's positioning himself defensively in stocks "that mimic the economy" such as Public Storage (PSA). "People are losing their homes but won't sell the family dining room set so they stick all their junk in a storage facility," he explains.
So-called dollar store discounters like Family Dollar (FDO) and Dollar General (DG) are also seen as timely beneficiaries. "This is a frugal world we live in," he says.
While outright shorting the market would seem to match such a gloomy outlook, Schoenberger is uncomfortable with the risk as well as the need to cover that short in the face of any rally.
"We're in big trouble," Schoenberger warns. "You have to be cautious going in to this market."