DISCLAIMER: THE FOLLOWING "Cost of Freedom Recap" CONTAINS STRONG OPINIONS WHICH ARE NOT A REFLECTION OF THE OPINIONS OF FOX NEWS AND SHOULD NOT BE RELIED UPON AS INVESTMENT ADVICE WHEN MAKING PERSONAL INVESTMENT DECISIONS. IT IS FOX NEWS' POLICY THAT CONTRIBUTORS DISCLOSE POSITIONS THEY HOLD IN STOCKS THEY DISCUSS, THOUGH POSITIONS MAY CHANGE. READERS OF "Cost of Freedom Recap" MUST TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR OWN INVESTMENT DECISIONS.
This past week's Bulls & Bears: Gary B. Smith, Exemplar Capital managing partner; Pat Dorsey, Morningstar.com director of stock research; Tobin Smith, ChangeWave Research editor; Scott Bleier, HybridInvestors.com president, and Lenny Dykstra, TheStreet.com columnist and former MLB All-Star.
Trading Pit: $10 Gas — Only Way to Break Our Oil Addiction?
Gas prices now north of $3. And many believe we'll see $4 soon. But is that enough to change our habits? Would paying ten dollars be enough?
Scott Bleier: No! Not even paying $10 would be enough! As long as gas is available, people will buy it and won't change their ways. There is not enough political and economic will to change our habits until there is no gas. When there finally is no gas, then we will change our ways.
Gary B. Smith: For the first time in twenty-five years, gas consumption and miles driven are actually down. I think one of the big reasons causing this trend is higher gas prices. So if people have already started curtailing their use at $3 gallon, at $10 a gallon, no one will be driving!
Lenny Dykstra: It doesn't matter if gas is it at $5 or $10. People will pay it. It's like if you go to a baseball game and want to buy a hot dog. You're trapped at the game. A hot dog costs $5 and that's what people pay. So what are you going to do if gas is $10 a gallon? Stay at home? No! You have to go to work, so you'll pay it!
Tobin Smith: At $5 a gallon, we'll get to the same point we were in 1982 when there was the huge spike, and consumption dropped fourteen percent. Gas doesn't need to get to $10 for us to kick our oil addiction. It only needs to get to about $5. If prices soar to $10, we will have the biggest recession in the history of the United States. Gas at $5 will tip it. Fortunately we haven't gotten there yet, and I don't think we will.
Pat Dorsey: Even at these levels, we are seeing a demand response to gas prices. At $6 a gallon, we would see a much stronger demand response with carpooling and choosing alternative means. But to structurally change our gas consumption over the long-term, we need many more fuel-efficient vehicles, better mass transit, and changes in living patterns. This doesn't change overnight. This is a big country and we are not as densely populated as Europe. And that means we're almost always going to consume a lot more gas per capita than other places around the world.
Dow's Amazing Run: How Much Is Left?
No rest for the Dow! More record highs. Two dozen this year alone! And get this—it's now seven weeks in a row that blue chips have racked up plus signs. How much more is left?
Tobin Smith: We may take a breather, but every time we take a breath it's time to buy, not time to sell. Look at what you're getting out of the corporate bond market. Five and a quarter percent for Triple A bonds! If you value that against stocks, the Dow would be at 17,000 right now! A reasonable price-earning rate reflects how safe the economy is and how much better companies are run.
Gary B. Smith: The Dow is up almost ten percent during the last two months! But the Nasdaq has really done nothing. This is a rather troubling sign because it indicates that at least part of the market—other than these 30 Dow stocks—is weak.
Pat Dorsey: Odds are we are due for some kind of short-term pullback. At the moment, liquidity is strong, money is very cheap, and what that means at the end of the day, is that there is more money. A trillion dollars in private equity is waiting to be invested, and it's chasing less stocks. It's pretty simple, more money chasing less equity pushes the market up.
Lenny Dykstra: Every week I sit in my living room and watch the Bulls & Bears, my American Idols. And for the past several weeks they've said the Dow can't go any higher, it's got to come down. Yet the Dow has gone higher and higher. But they're right. There's not much left because Wal-Mart is the only Dow stock that is undervalued by ten percent or more.
Scott Bleier: The Dow has been up eleven out of twelve months, gaining twenty-five plus percent. A lot of money is chasing deals, some of which are very speculative, and not every company is going to be bought. The Nasdaq has been flat and has not been doing well. This is an excellent time to sell stocks not buy them because there is trouble brewing. The American consumer is slowing down and the whole world will slow down with us.
American "Stock" Idol: Each guy picked his own American Stock Idol. But will our Simon Cowell, Pat Dorsey, agree?
Tobin Smith: Color Kinetics (CLRK)
Scott Bleier: 3Com Corporation (COMS)
Lenny Dykstra: Best Buy (BBY)
Gary B. Smith: Applebee's International (APPB)
Scott's prediction: Illegal "Amnesty" bill is bad! Nasdaq down 20 percent in 1 year
Tobin's prediction: Paris is hot! Hilton (HLT) moves up 25 percent by next May
Lenny's prediction: Yahoo! (YHOO) CEO gets fired! Goes up 33 percent by World Series
Gary B's prediction: Chrysler restructuring helps Ford (F) gain 20 percent by Labor Day
Pat's prediction: Bank on it! U.S. Bancorp (USB) up 20 percent in one year
On Saturday, May 19th, Neil Cavuto was joined by Ben Stein, "Yes, You Can Get a Financial Life" author; Charles Payne, "Be Smart, Act Fact, Get Rich" author; Laura Schwartz, Democratic strategist; Tracy Byrnes, New York Post business writer; Pat Powell, Powell Financial Group; and Jerry Bowyer, The National Review Online.
Bottom Line: Best Economy Ever?
Neil Cavuto: Low inflation, nearly full employment, rising wages, low interest rates, the Dow hitting record highs and home ownership at record levels. That's today's economy by today's numbers. But, is this the greatest economy in U.S. history? Jerry, what do you think?
Jerry Bowyer: Yeah, it looks that way, Neil. We looked at data going back to 1820, which is as far back as you can go. I can't find, just going by the numbers, any time in American history when we had wealth creation at the same level we've had over the past three or four years. Sometimes you had spurts in wealth, but then you'd have a panic or a depression. Since 1820, we haven't had a mix of wealth creation and broad distribution of wealth like what we have right now. It's amazing.
Neil Cavuto: So why don't we hear more about it?
Charles Payne: Well, I think because Bush is behind it and a lot of folks [don't like him]. The war in Iraq is setting a negative tone over everything going on in the economy. I would say this is the second best economy. I think the Reagan economy was better than this economy. I think this economy is better than the 1960 economy. But, what all three have in common is tax cuts — low tax rates. They have allowed people to participate and get the economy going. It's really a shame that so many Americans feel so bad about themselves and where they are. For the most part, people are doing great compared to previous generations. I don't know how to turn the negative feelings around.
Ben Stein: Charles is completely right. Compared to previous generations, the wealth of this country is phenomenal, breath-taking, off-the-charts, unbelievable. But, this is really two economies. This is really a very wonderful economy for the rich. But, for the ordinary person, wages peaked in 1973 and have never reached that peak, adjusted for inflation. There are an awful lot of home foreclosures, an awful lot of people in the upper Midwest who are really bleeding as the auto industry hemorrhages. For the rich, though, it's an incredibly great economy. For people who have capital, it's an incredibly great economy.
Neil Cavuto: How do you define rich, Ben?
Ben Stein: You are rich. However, rich you are… that is rich.
Ben Stein: No, I don't know. I would say $20 million in assets makes you rich by my standards.
Neil Cavuto: Tracy, my point is that you can say, as Ben just did, that this is just a rich person's economy…
Ben Stein: No, no. Neil, with respect, I'm not saying that it's not a great economy for everyone. It's just a lot better for the rich.
Neil Cavuto: Tracy, what do you make of just that point?
Tracy Byrnes: It's a phenomenal economy. And $20 million in assets aside, I'm not really sure of the 10 people who have that… but for those of us who don't, all is well. We're living really well. We're living much better than we ever have. And I think it's because this is an entrepreneurial economy, as opposed to an economy where a bunch of people have jobs. Technology and the advancement of information is out there like it's never been before, and that's what's going to keep this economy going. And to Charles's point, taxes are at a 20-year low in relative dollars. And that's something the Democrats or whoever gets into office should keep in mind, because the entrepreneur and the small business is what's keeping this economy going, and they have to be very careful when it comes to raising taxes.
Neil Cavuto: Laura, the inference from a lot of the candidates seems to be that since there are a lot of rich folks out there, more than there were in the Reagan years, tax them to make for a fairer playing field.
Laura Schwartz: Well, right now the top 1 percent of this country averages $44,000 a year because of those tax breaks. The average middle classer? $744.
Neil Cavuto: Wait a minute. $44,000?
Laura Schwartz: $44,000 is the average tax break that the top 1 percent of the country is getting.
Jerry Bowyer: Good!
Neil Cavuto: What does the average 1 percent pay?
Tracy Byrnes: But that's the $20 million people.
Laura Schwartz: Right. And you know what? The average middle classer is getting $744 back a year. Yet, that average middle classer is paying 80 percent more a year in health care, that's $6,000 a year per family. They're paying 44 percent more a year for education. We've got college graduates walking across the stage this May with $19,000 of average debt.
Ben Stein: Well, that's fine. They should have debt.
Laura Schwartz: So, you add that together with gas prices… and that's why 55 percent of Americans are saying the economy is getting worse, not better. They're not looking at the Dow. They're looking at their pocketbook.
Neil Cavuto: Pat, what do you make of that?
Pat Powell: Well, I'm just so impressed. You have all of this data, but none of it makes any sense. The fact is that taxes are lower, but tax receipts are the highest they've ever been in this country!
Laura Schwartz: But, the middle class isn't seeing the benefit of that, especially among Independents and Democrats.
Pat Powell: The benefit of that is having a job. The benefit of an economy like this is being able to bring food home to your family, to bring a paycheck home to your family, and to live in a house…
Laura Schwartz: And have some benefits, but half of the jobs created have no benefits and are part time.
Pat Powell: There's no rule that you have to have benefits in a job.
Laura Schwartz: Well how are they going pay for it otherwise? Because they're having a hard time as it is.
Neil Cavuto: Jerry, you were shaking your head earlier. What do you make of all of this?
Jerry Bowyer: It's complete nonsense. Every poll that looks at how the American people feel about their own economic picture says that a vast majority of Americans feel good about their economic outlook. People like Laura tell them the economy's bad, so when you ask the typical American "Is the American economy doing well?" They say no. When you ask them, "Is your economy doing well?" They say yes. The American people understand that this is a time of prosperity. Now, I know there are all these statistics about how wages are flat. But, people don't just get wages. Average Americans have stocks and bonds; they have a little consulting on the side. Very few people have nothing but a W-2. And when you take into account all forms of income, it's up. It's at the highest level in American history.
Ben Stein: Wait a second. Jerry, with all due respect, how many Americans to do you think do consulting on the side?
Jerry Bowyer: Well, I don't know. We recently rehabbed a house and most of the people…
Ben Stein: We…
Jerry Bowyer: My family and I…
Ben Stein: "We" is two people. Two people out of 300-million. That's not a statistically meaningful calculation.
Jerry Bowyer: OK, maybe we were the only people in America who did any rehab work on a house, but let's assume other people did it, too. Everyone working on our house was a subcontractor. Nobody there was getting paid wages.
Neil Cavuto: OK, we can run off course here… You raise a good point Jerry, as do you Ben. But Tracy, my point is we can pick apart the quality of jobs like we did 10 years ago when we had a Democrat in the White House. The big difference is the war. All I know is 90 percent of Americans are working. Is there a predisposition in the media to assume the worst about the economy?
Tracy Byrnes: Yes, and it comes back to the Republican Party. My biggest gripe with them is they are not marketing the economy like they should. The Democrats are doing a fine job of saying it's terrible. But it's not. It's terrific! And the Republicans are not getting the message out.
Charles Payne: Sometimes you can work to make the economy great or you can work to spend all the time. I think the Democrats spend a lot of time spending.
Neil Cavuto: By the way, the Republicans were no slouches in that regard. They lost their majorities because they spent.
Charles Payne: I think they lost because they were very arrogant and they distanced themselves from the average American. But, I do think a lot of people think this economy is going downhill. If you look at every opinion poll and you look at expectations for six months out, people are looking for the economy to fall off a cliff! And that's worrisome.
Tracy Byrnes: It's bad marketing.
Ben Stein: There are some real risks. There is a severe risk of a dollar crisis.
Charles Payne: That's a risk, but not over the next six months. The risks don't outweigh the reality that this economy is doing fantastic.
Tracy Byrnes: And none of those risks are new.
Head to Head: Wal-Mart-Hating Snobs?
Neil Cavuto: People who block Wal-Marts from coming to big cities like New York are just snobs who hurt Middle Class Americans. That's what Ben Stein thinks. It's time to go "Head to Head." What do you mean, Ben?
Ben Stein: Well, I mean that Wal-Mart is an incredible benefit to any community. It makes all the people around it richer because their paycheck can go further and they can buy more. It's essentially like getting a raise. But, upper middle class, snobby upper class, people who watch movies with subtitles… and I watch them, too…are saying Wal-Mart isn't good enough for us. But something else is happening. It's racism. I know people who say, "We don't want Wal-Mart in our community because it draws in the African Americans, it draws in the Hispanics, and it draws in people whose faces are not the same color as ours. We don't want them in our neighborhood." Racism has a lot to do with the dislike of Wal-Mart. I hate to say it because it's a very strong accusation, but I've heard it over and over again.
Charles Payne: I think the snobbery does play a role. It's really interesting, particularly in Manhattan, because the average apartment costs $1 million, and certainly Wal-Mart doesn't bring up the property value, it probably brings it down in part to the racism thing Ben was talking about. Certainly there's a serious problem between snobbery and the unions in these large cities. In New York, you can't build a bird cage without union approval. I think it's a combination of both. Certainly the image of Wal-Mart does not fit the image of classy, urban areas like Park Avenue or Fifth Avenue or anywhere in Manhattan for that matter. Ben is on to something there. I think it goes beyond race and onto elitism.
Ben Stein: It's racism and classism, and super-snobbery is the main heading.
Charles Payne: Let me just say one thing. The real sad thing about it, particularly with the liberals, is that whenever they have a chance to help people, they don't. You know, they wouldn't mind a Wal-Mart in New York, as long as it's in the Bronx; it can't be in Manhattan.
Jerry Bowyer: I think Ben and Charles are both right. I think it's kind of a class-snobbishness. I don't know about the race side of it. It's plausible. But, it's also bad for the middle class in terms of employment opportunities. It's not just a consumer thing. We have friends of the family who work at Wal-Mart. Sometimes people without a college degree or professional certification can come into a Wal-Mart at an entry level and work their way up. I think that Wal-Mart ought to be allowed any place where people are willing to work at it and buy the products.
Ben Stein: Nobody's forced to work at Wal-Mart. People do it freely.
Laura Schwartz: I know snobs who shop at Wal-Mart. They may go there at 2:00 in the morning, but they do. Everybody likes a good deal. That's what Wal-Mart gives.
Charles Payne: But they don't want it in their neighborhood.
Laura Schwartz: But, you know what? You have to look at the fact that this is not snobbery-driven. This is politically-driven. It's the unions. When it comes to New York and LA, huge union towns, there's no way. But in Chicago, where I come from, Mayor Daley worked it out. Wal-Mart is now on the south side. The area has a higher percentage of lower income folks, but it's allowing them to get access to goods and services they can afford.
Pat Powell: I think she's on to something. I think it's politics and not snobbery. I think it's a politics of deflection. If you have a health care crisis in this country, it can't be your fault. It's gotta be Wal-Mart's fault. If you don't have high paying jobs, it's gotta be Wal-Mart's fault. There's somebody to blame, and who are you going to blame, but the great American success story?
More for Your Money: $tock $hopping for Paris!
Neil Cavuto: Note to Paris Hilton: Shoes are not a great investment when you're heading to prison, but stocks could make you richer by the time you get out! Our guys have some hot picks for Paris and you, too! It's time to get more for your money.
Charles Payne: Geo Group (GEO)
Ben Stein: Ryland Homes (RYL)
Tracy Byrnes: Honeywell (HON)
Pat Powell: Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE)
FOX on the Spot
Pat Powell: "Amnesty" Bill bad for America! Kill it or regret it!
Charles Payne: Cost to legalize too high; illegals won't bite!
Ben Stein: I agree; and what will we do with the next 12 million?
Laura Schwartz: Hillary's biggest threat? Oprah! She's backing Obama
Tracy Byrnes: Chrysler sale bad for UAW; good for U.S. auto biz
Neil Cavuto: Strong economy could mean $5/gal gas this summer
In Focus: Can You 'Buy' the Presidency?
John Rutledge, Forbes contributor: Yes, you can buy any political office in America. There are 3 ways to do it. You can buy it like Roosevelt, Kennedy or Kerry. You can inherit it like Gore, Pelosi or maybe Hillary. Or you can use the famous card like Reagan or maybe Fred Thompson. Fortunately, the presidency is not for permanent sale, it's for rent for 4 years at a time.
Steve Forbes, editor-in-chief: If you could buy the Presidency you'd have heard "Hail to the Chief" when I came on this set. The answer to this question is no, you can't buy the Presidency. Take Jimmy Carter for example. He could have spent $10 million and he still couldn't have beaten Ronald Reagan. You have to have the right message.
Elizabeth MacDonald, senior editor: I don't have a problem with guys like New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg, who reportedly is considering spending $1 billion run for President. The other candidates are getting their money in greasy brown paper bags. I think Bloomberg would be a fresh voice in this election.
Lea Goldman, associate editor: No matter how much money Bloomberg throws into this race it doesn't matter. He's going to buy fancy packaging and aggressive marketing but it's not going to buy him charisma and it's not going to buy him more experience which he lacks in spades. He could throw all the money he has at the race and he won't be able to buy the Presidency.
Mike Ozanian, senior editor: Money helps, but it can't buy you the office. Bloomberg wants to be everyone's nanny, tell you how much you can drink and eat, tell you how green everything has to be. That's the wrong message. Whether you use your own money or tax payers' money, you're still beholden to somebody. Whether it be special interest or the people you depend on for you income.
Quentin Hardy, Silicon Valley bureau chief: I think the interesting thing that no one has mentioned is when have we had a President who wasn't a rich guy? A millionaire at least? I think it's more of a matter of what kind of rich guy are you going to get. Someone who belongs to the machine or someone from the outside? It's a weak field generally this year. I'd like to see Bloomberg get a shot.
Flipside: Immigration Reform Deal Is Too Tough on Illegals!
Dennis Kneale, managing editor: This is a mean-spirited bill. It's going to burden business, promote racism and breakup families. We've got illegal immigrants who've been here 10-20 years who we couldn't find and now we're telling them you're going to have to pay $5,000 to stay in America? Are we trying to solve this problem or are we trying to divide America? And we are talking about beefing up the border patrol and border security. How come we're not blocking off Canada? This is racist!
Quentin Hardy: There's no one to block from coming down from Canada. This is a devious bill in many ways. First off, saying this time you get amnesty, but from here on out you won't. Everyone looks at that saying another amnesty is coming in another 10 years and I'll just wait until then. And allowing in 400,000 guest workers in to do jobs no American will take is just pressure to keep wages low.
Victoria Barret, associate editor: This strikes a compromise in an otherwise thorny issue. It basically says we can't kick out the people that are here illegally, but we can't turn a blind eye which is what we've been doing.
Steve Forbes: I think the real word for this is unrealistic. A $5,000 fine for 12 million illegal immigrants. That's $6 billion. Where is that money going to come from? It's not going to happen. The provision that they need to go home before they come back again is also unrealistic. Hitting businesses with incomplete data bases in the government is just a source for lawsuits. They're going to have to refine the thing if they want to get it through.
Bill Baldwin, editor: I think it's way too soft on the would-be immigrants that happen to live next door and way too tough on the would-be immigrants from India and China. I think we should offer automatic citizenship for anyone who gets a graduate degree from an American university.
Michele Steele, reporter Forbes.com: My mom came to this country as an immigrant in the 1960s. What about the people waiting in line patiently at an American embassy or consulate abroad to do things legally? Do I think it's fair to put those people in back of the people already here who have instant legalization? That's not right!
Iran With a Nuke: Only Thing That Can Stop This Bull Market?
Elizabeth MacDonald: You get these religious maniacs a nuclear weapon and they can do things like threaten to cut off the Straight of Hormuz, which happened recently. If they shut off their oil supplies, oil prices would rise, inflation would go up and the Fed could raise interest rates and that could be a problem for our markets.
John Rutledge: I don't like the Iranian government and I don't want them to have a nuclear weapon. But if they did, and the stock market falls 1,000 points, I'm going to be fully invested and if the market falls 2,000 points I'll buy the market on options. When people get excited, bet against their fears.
Steve Forbes: In the short-term, John's going to have to have a strong stomach because the markets would go down, especially after oil prices go up to a couple hundred dollars a barrel. The key to this situation would be how America responds. If we respond forcefully the markets will recover. If we do a Jimmy Carter response, the markets will stay down.
Bill Baldwin: I don't think the market reacts to known risks, I think it reacts to surprises.
Victoria Barret: I think the market would be in for a rough patch. What Ahmadinejad is trying to do is take advantage of the unrest and instability in the Middle East and turn it into an all-out battle between us and the Middle East. At that point, all bets are off. Nuclear technology changes everything. It's very dangerous. It would be a real risk to the market.
Informer: Mu$t-Have Fund$!
Lea Goldman: T. Rowe Price Emerging Markets (PRMSX)
Dennis Kneale: MSCI Sweden (EWD)
Michele Steele: Oil Services (OIH)
Mike Ozanian: Vanguard Total Bond (VBMFX)
Our Cashin' In crew this week: Wayne Rogers, Wayne Rogers & Co; Jonathan Hoenig, CapitalistPig Asset Management; Jonas Max Ferris, MaxFunds.com; Dagen McDowell, FOX Business News; Stuart Varney, FOX Business News; Peg Samuel, SocialDiva.com; and Connie DeGroot, Coldwell Banker
Uber-$hoppers Like Pari$ Hilton: Great Americans?
Paris Hilton parties, breaks the rules, and gets in trouble, but she's also an entrepreneur. And in a country driven by the consumer, she's royalty in the sense that she spends so much. Does this make Paris a great American?
Peg: Yes, Paris Hilton is a great American. She does spend a lot of money, which is great for America. Love her or hate her, she is also an entrepreneur, and does sell a lot of stuff: magazines, the latest fashion must-haves, etc. In this way, she makes money for a lot of other people. Don't you also think she's helping her great-granddaddy's brand out? She and her sister are branding the family name and funneling into other areas.
Dagen: Paris also makes money for herself. She's pulling in millions of dollars a year with movies, TV, music, books, jewelry, perfume, purses and more. Plus, she gets six figures for appearing at a club. Admiring and following socialites is not a new tradition in America. It started in the late ‘20s and early ‘30s with Barbara Hutton and Doris Duke. They were out there spending money rather than trying to earn money, but were still role models for a lot of people in this country.
Stuart: Since when has gross conspicuous consumption made anyone a great American? Since when has shopping as a lifestyle and spending your parents' money ever made you a great American? America is great because of its individual liberty and freedom. It's got nothing to do with mindless consumption by this young lady. Gross consumption may have become the characteristic of some Americans, but it's not a great characteristic and we could become even greater if we had a concept of thrift and conservancy and waiting for delayed gratification.
Wayne: When you talk about it in economic terms, drug lords and porn kings also make a lot of money. The fact that she is making a lot of money has nothing to do with it. We're not talking about George Washington here. Paris is not a great American. She's just a conspicuous consumer. It's tasteless.
Jonathan: I don't really respect consumers. I respect producers, who make the items that we can consume. I don't begrudge Paris or any wealthy heir, but the real productive person here was her great-grandfather, Conrad Hilton.
Jonas: Jonathan, how much merchandise have you sold abroad? Paris' albums actually sell well in other countries. If other people export as much as she does, our dollar wouldn't be in the toilet. There's a lot to hate about Paris Hilton, but she is a great American because she does work and make money. She could be living off of a trust fund, but she doesn't. Paris is out there working and making money. When you see her out partying, she is getting paid to go to these clubs to promote them.
Hou$ing: Worst Over or Downhill From Here?
Wayne: The housing market hasn't turned around just yet. Take a look at these recent headlines: "Supply of homes and sales remain weak," "Home equity stalls." Every week we see items like this. The supply is getting worse. Right now we're going through a phase where price adjustment is taking place. We still have to go through the foreclosure phase before housing starts to turn around. I will say, though, there is some light at the end of the tunnel in some areas. We've always said real estate is a local phenomenon. There are certain markets where real estate is in good shape and will be for the future. However, the great majority of it is still in trouble.
Connie: Wayne is right in that there has been a lot of bad press. Most buyers and sellers are sitting on the fence right now and are not sure what they should do. Some markets are very affected by the subprime lending mess. There's an excess supply in these areas, but there's also many high-end areas that have a lack of inventory and where prices are very strong.
Jonathan: If you want to buy a home, you should buy a home. Home ownership is part of the American dream. It's just important to be sure that you buy one that you can afford. Wayne is also looking at investment real estate. Looking at real estate as an asset class, I think there's more hope that doubt, but I am still bearish.
Stuart: We haven't yet seen a real imposed loss of value on single-family homes. For example, in the San Diego area, there was an auction of foreclosed property of single-family homes earlier this month. The actual price at the auction for those homes was one-third below the previous selling price for those same homes. That's how much of a price decline we have to see in key markets.
Dagen: There are so many question marks as to how bad it will really get. You do have tighter lending standards for people with risky credit, but even those who aren't the riskiest borrower are having a harder time getting a mortgage. We also don't know the fallout yet from the rate readjustment that many people are facing.
Rudy's Tough Talk: Just What Wall Street Wanted to Hear?
Rudy Giuliani at last Tuesday's debate made it clear he'd go to extremes to stop a terror attack in America. Is that a message Wall Street wanted to hear?
Stuart: It's absolutely what Wall Street wanted to hear. Both Wall Street and America know that one nuke, one serious anthrax attack, or one serious sarin gas attack could ruin our market and economy for a long time to come. We definitely should use those advanced techniques of interrogation. The appeasement brigade will always turn around and say that it is torture even if you put them in handcuffs. If you have a terrorist in custody and know there's a bomb on your turf, you absolutely water board. It's the ticking time bomb approach. Water boarding worked with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. What else have you got?
Jonathan: I would have loved for Giuliani to come right out and say that he would support water boarding. I don't think he went far enough. We have an enemy who will cut heads off of those it captures and we are afraid to say we will splash water on their faces. C'mon!
Dagen: Water boarding and other advanced techniques are considered torture by a lot of people. In the same debate, John McCain said that you never gain as much by using torture, as you would lose as a nation on the world stage. We need to listen to our military commanders. John McCain also was tortured in Vietnam.
Wayne: Yes, Wall Street wants to support Giuliani in this area. We don't want any more terrorism. I would also question the source of the intelligence. It's hard to believe that George Tenet and those like him know what they are talking about when they couldn't even get the weapons of mass destruction story right. They are contradictory and I don't believe anything the intelligence leaders say.
Jonas: Wall Street really has its eye on the next Republican and what will be done to the size of government. Will they increase it? Are they going to increase the powers of government? Many of the candidates do a lot of tough talking, yet a lot of them have very soft backgrounds. Their tough talk doesn't necessarily mean they will spend a lot of money. That's what Wall Street's really looking for.
Best Bets: $hrek Stocks: Ugly But Lovable
Jonas: Dean Foods (DF) (Friday's Close: $32.14.)
Jonathan: iShares Lehman TIPS Bond (TIP) (Friday's Close: $99.67.)
Wayne: Liberty Global (LBTYA) (Friday's Close: $37.82.)