Neil Cavuto was joined by Gregg Hymowitz, founder of Entrust Capital; Jim Rogers, president of JimRogers.com; Ben Stein, economist; Tom Dorsey, president of Dorsey, Wright & Associates; Michelle Girard, Treasury market strategist at Wachovia Securities; Robert Kennedy, Jr., senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Neil Cavuto: Two years since the unthinkable happened in America, is our market and economy all the way back? It's hard to believe the September 11 (search) attacks happened almost two years ago. Since then: a massive market sell-off, a war in Afghanistan and Iraq. But no new terror attacks on American soil. On the day before the terrorists struck two years ago, the Dow stood at just above 9600. As of Friday's close, it's very close to that same level. Ben Stein, two years later, has the stock market recovered from September 11th?
Ben Stein: Statistically, the markets have recovered but I think it's lurking in everyone's sub-consciousness that something like 9-11 could happen again.
Gregg Hymowitz: It's interesting because if you go back to that September 10th number, the market is cheaper today than it was back then, using this year's earnings. The S&P was trading at 30 times earnings and now it's trading at 28 times this year's earnings. And the Nasdaq is up 10 percent since September 10th. So it's amazing that the stock market has recovered, but the key question is has the economy recovered?
Jim Rogers: The economy has recovered. The economy is much stronger now than it was on September 10th 2001. Even you, Gregg, have to acknowledge that.
Ben Stein: Profits are rising like mad.
Gregg Hymowitz: Profits are rising, but just from the beginning of this year you've already lost a half a million jobs.
Ben Stein: Yes, but that's always a lagging indicator and they will come back.
Michelle Girard: We were actually in a recession before 9-11. And the recession was just about over right around when 9-11 hit. If you look at the GDP statistics, we've long been above where we were. In terms of how far we can be growing and potential GDP, we are still behind on that front.
Jim Rogers: But the economy is improving very rapidly and profits are improving rapidly.
Gregg Hymowitz: Do you know where the GDP growth is coming from? $40 billion of it is the military. So we are losing the manufacturing sector.
Jim Rogers: Be that as it may, the economy is better.
Ben Stein: We need even more military spending. Our troops are being spread very, very thin.
Neil Cavuto: What stocks that have come back post 9-11 are the good bets now?
Gregg Hymowitz: One stock we like is Viacom (VIA.B). It's trading at 25 times earnings. It's not necessarily cheap, but it mirrors what you're seeing in the economy to a certain extent -- improved advertising spending -- I think Viacom is a very well run company, and it's not a necessarily expensive stock.
Michelle Girard: Gregg, you make a point that we are seeing very rapid growth in the military sector. But that's a very small sector of the economy, and if the consumer were not holding up, it wouldn't matter almost what the government was doing. The truth is the consumer has held up so well considering 9-11. I think retail stocks are good bets right now.
Gregg Hymowitz: Military spending is a small sector of the economy, but my point was it's a large part of the growth we see in the GDP.
Jim Rogers: And Michelle, how long can the consumer keep going. He's maxed out on his credit cards...
Michelle Girard: That's actually not true. We've seen a lot of refinancing activity and consumers have been paying down debt. How could you see car sales at their second highest levels in August? Just when you think, 'Who could buy another car?' They buy another car.
Ben Stein: Personal savings is rising. I always like income stocks. I like ServiceMaster (SVM) because it's a high-income stock. Part of its many, many jobs is cleaning up and servicing buildings. I own this stock and as the real estate sector recovers, as I think it will, they'll do better.