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Slow Outlook for 2013

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Once again the market begins the session under a cloud of doubt but not necessarily panic. Of course yesterday the same scenario saw an indifferent start morph into the wheels coming off early. But the market wasn't afraid, more so frustrated. There is also a dollop of angst always associated with earnings season. What makes this earning season even more compelling is the idea 2013 could actually see slower growth than last year and what that means for stocks. On the other hand Europe will not be worse and the rest of the world is regaining momentum.

This continues to be at the core of a lot of our investing ideas. We are looking beyond the myopic media coverage focused on aged empires whose best days are behind them, lost in a mountain of arrogance and self destruction that comes with social and economic engineering aimed at leveling playing fields or divvying up fortunes to those that played no role in the creation of said fortunes in the first place.

Rough Start to the Session
Carlos Guillen

As we saw yesterday, stocks took a step down as there was not much in terms of fundamental economic drivers and as investors began to refocus on Washington over the ramping debt ceiling debates.

Today we are seeing that the National Federation of Independent Business's small-business optimism index rose 0.5 point last month to 88.0. But the December gain followed a 5.6-point plunge in November which was one of the largest declines on record.

Over in the euro zone, economic confidence rose more than economists forecasted in December, even as the 17-nation currency bloc remained mired in its second recession in four years. The Zone's Consumer sentiment index rose for a second month to 87.0 from 85.7 in November, landing higher than economists' forecast of 86.3. On the other hand, German factory orders fell more than economists expected in November amid weak demand from outside the euro area. Orders dropped 1.8 percent from October, when they jumped a revised 3.8 percent. The decline was worse than economists' forecast of a 1.4 percent decline.

On a slight positive note, the Japanese government said today it would draft a package of emergency economic measures by Friday, offering a shot in the arm to the nation's long-stagnant economy that is feebly emerging from its latest downturn. If this sounds like a form of quantitative easing, well it is, and that should bode well for equity markets around the world.

Small Business Optimism
By David Urani

The NFIB's small business optimism index for December edged up to 88.0 from 87.5, but as you may recall, the November reading was dismal, hitting the lowest point since March 2010. And of course with this slight monthly increase, we're still standing at the second worst reading since then. And that weakness is driven by a poor outlook, which remained stuck at the all-time low.

The main driver of small businesses' poor sentiment was the government, with taxes being cited as the single most important problem, followed by government requirements & red tape, and then sales. If there's anything positive to be taken from this report it's that since December we've finally gotten a resolution over the Fiscal Cliff tax issue, although even though it's resolved it does include taxes on high income earners, which we all know includes many small businesses.


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