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.
Iraq war: "Go big" and add more troops, "go long" and keep training Iraqi forces, or simply "go home." Which does Wall Street want?
CHARLES PAYNE: Go big! Wall Street likes decisiveness and that’s been the big problem with Iraq — we were not decisive and went in with a small amount of troops. We need to go big and get the job done. This will also make our troops safer and bring them home sooner.
GARY B. SMITH: I agree with Charles that we need to go big. However, I don’t this is what the stock market wants. Wall Street wants fewer troops in Iraq because that cuts our costs. The market hates this war because it is costing us billions. But this is not good and is such short-term thinking. I think Wall Street would like nothing better than for us to pull out and concentrate on our own shores. In my opinion, this would be very bad and send the wrong message to the terrorists. But, it would make the market soar.
TOBIN SMITH: Wall Street does not want us to go big without a strategy. Adding 250,000 troops means we’ll have to start a draft. And if you think people are nervous and upset about the war now, see what happens if we start a draft. Wall Street wants a rational plan. It also wants to see some progress from Iraqis — not just us doing all the work. Just spending a trillion dollars and sending over 250,000 troops is not the answer.
SCOTT BLEIER: More troops. I don’t want to seem callous, but this bull market started the day we went into Iraq. If we leave without testing some new strategy of going big and going long, the market will suffer. The market has loved the war. The numbers speak for themselves.
PAT DORSEY: I think it’s wash either way. If we go big and spend a lot, it will calm things down in Iraq. However, this will be a drain on the economy. If we pull out, it will increase the instability in the region, but would be a positive for the economy.
Will Your Home Be Worth More or Less in 1 Year?
You've heard the reports. Home sales and prices are down. Builders can't get rid of new construction without giving away the kitchen sink — literally! So one year from now, Thanksgiving 2007, will home prices be worth more or less?
Tobin: Home prices will be down one year from now. In the Midwest, home prices haven’t gone down that much, but they haven’t gone up that much either. This is not true for the coasts and other places with huge amounts of inventory. Homebuilders are telling me they need at least 12-18 additional months to sell that inventory. Plus, there are a number of people who have pulled their homes off the market and will have to sell next year. The big areas will be down another 10-15 percent.
Gary B: Home prices are going up! We’ve already had a pull back. Two things will sustain this housing boom: low unemployment and low interest rates. Historically, this is what has contributed to housing prices going up. The bubble areas may come down, but across the board, prices will continue to go up.
Charles: The economic slowdown is not going to be as bad as some people think. The housing market correction is sharp and will happen quickly. A year from now housing will be higher.
Scott: The homebuilding companies might have 12-18 months of inventory, but the company stocks have stopped going down, even on bad news. That tells me the end of misery is near. If you live in the areas that have seen the bubble, be prepared for more downside. You should be fine if you have a nice house, near a big city with lots of jobs. In these areas, prices have stopped going down and will begin to go up.
Pat: To Scott’s comment, I can think of a lot of nice houses outside Washington, D.C., that are still going down. In areas like Miami, southern California, San Francisco, and Las Vegas, there’s more downside to come. Here in the heartland, prices never went up that much, so they aren’t going to go down too much.
Christmas is exactly one month away. Don’t hit the malls! We’ve got the best stock gifts that will keep on giving all year ‘round.
Pat: I own and love Comverse Technology (Illegal immigration — a red-hot issue this summer — fizzled ahead of the midterms and now is not even on the new agenda! Is that good or bad for America and the market?
Heather Mac Donald: President Bush pushed for amnesty and we know that brings in more illegal immigrants. What we need in this country is the rule of law. There’s plenty laws on the books regarding immigration, we just need to start enforcing them.
Stuart Varney: Strictly through the point of an investor, mass immigration has been a wonderful thing. It keeps us competitive and brought us a large supply of reliable, quality labor.
Gregg Hymowitz: I can’t believe I’m finally agreeing with you. The fact that you have 14 million immigrants here with undefined status is a problem. If we do get to the middle ground that the President has been talking about, and just to note I’m agreeing with the president, it would be a positive for the economy.
Alan Colmes: I agree with President Bush on immigration. The president wanted a comprehensive policy here. Congress was cowardly. They didn’t do anything before the election and they won’t do anything now.
Heather Mac Donald: We have not enforced the laws for two decades. Employers across this country are violating the law.
Neil Cavuto: Jon, if we drop any kind of immigration reform is that good or bad for Wall Street?
Jon Najarian: Wall Street has already voted that it’s a positive. Third World competition has held wages down, which is good for the employers, but not necessarily good for the employees. And that we’re not going to have any comprehensive reform in this area is a positive for hoteliers, construction companies, and retailers.
Neil Cavuto: What he’s saying essentially is that Wall Street has been running up in part because it doesn’t expect any resolution.
Stuart Varney: I really don’t think that’s the case. I would say we should be controlling our borders to get a grip on this obvious problem. We should do something about the language issue. It’s divisive. But we’re not going to deport them. We’re not going to get rid of them. We need them. We got them. And I’m happy to see them here.
Neil Cavuto: If our guests are right, Wall Street doesn’t expect any resolution. And if I’m hearing Jon right, they might welcome it because cheap labor continues to be the rule of the land and inflation is not a worry.
Heather Mac Donald: It’s classic externalities.
Neil Cavuto: Extra-what?
Heather Mac Donald: Externalities.
Neil Cavuto: We do not use big words here.
Heather Mac Donald: It’s an extra burden on the rest of the country. We are importing poverty. The second and third generation of immigrants is not doing well. They have the highest rate of teen pregnancy rate. They have the highest drop out rate.
Gregg Hymowitz: You still have not given us a solution to what you do with 12 or 13 million people. There’s no way they’re just going to voluntarily return. The fact of the matter is they’re here and something needs to be done. We need to create a program like the President was suggesting.
Heather Mac Donald: After 9/11, the president deported 1,500 Pakistanis out of New York City for immigration violations. Ten times the amount voluntarily left.
Neil Cavuto: Jon, if nothing gets done on this what then?
Jon Najarian: Well, it holds wages down which is bad for workers but really good for the employers.
Head to Head
Neil Cavuto: A spike in property taxes. Is that the number one threat to the housing market right now? Time to go Head to Head. Cheri, you say beware rising property taxes. Why?
Cheri Jacobus: Look, America has just put some Democrats in power all across the country, not just in Washington, but in some state houses as well. They did it as a knee jerk reaction to some of the scandals. You’re going to see these Democrats go after people’s homes by raising property taxes.
Leigh Gallagher: I don’t think so at all. Democrats are looking at one big prize and that’s the 2008 election. They’re going to lay low and avoid high voltage issues like taxes. The other thing is property taxes are a micro local issue. And that’s unlikely to affect the housing market nationally.
Gregg Hymowitz: Cheri is right but she’s got the reason wrong. Property taxes have been going up for a long time. But they’ve been going up because this Republican administration, as it continues to cut taxes, makes the tax burden on states. So states have had no choice but to raise taxes.
Stuart Varney: There is a huge explosion about to happen with pension and health benefits for retired government workers at the state level. Somebody is going to have to pay $1.3 trillion in the next few years. Property taxes are going up.
Gregg Hymowitz: The whole problem at the local level has been exacerbated as this administration has continued to cut taxes. The revenues still have to be raised somewhere.
Alan Comes: Cheri wants to scare people by saying that Democrats are in power and look what’s going to happen. Gregg is right. There’s not enough money going back to municipalities. They have to raise the money somehow.
Neil Cavuto: Property taxes were going up each and every year through the Clinton years. You’re aware of that, right?
Alan Comes: Right. And they’ll continue to go up regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans are in power.
Gregg Hymowitz: If you look back, most of us will find that our taxes have gone down on the Federal level but up on the state levels.
Neil Cavuto: State and local taxes have been going up for 30 years.
Gregg Hymowitz: They’ve gone up on a more rapid increase since the federal government started lowering taxes.
Stuart Varney: New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine, New York, and Rhode Island have the highest property taxes. These are blue states and are controlled by Democrats.
Jon Najarian: I live in a blue state and our taxes are sky high. It’s not just property taxes — it’s also employment. As long as employment stays strong, you won’t see the fear that Cheri is talking about.
Neil Cavuto: Isn’t the problem more acute in the populous states?
Leigh Gallagher: No. Definitely not. But those states have already absorbed very high property taxes. And it hasn’t really affected the housing market. Property taxes are not the cause of the downturn in the housing market.
Stuart Varney: Property taxes will prolong the downturn in the housing market. It’s another negative on top of high interest rates.
Neil Cavuto: So how do you fix it?
Stuart Varney: You really have to do something about these pension and health benefits for these retired government workers.
Neil Cavuto: Cheri, is that what we have to do?
Cheri Jacobus: Look at what happened in Florida. We have a newly elected Republican governor and property taxes are a big issue. That’s what’s going to lead the political debate.
Alan Colmes: The issue is you can’t just keep lowering taxes and lowering taxes regardless of what’s happening in the economy.
More for Your Money
Neil Cavuto: Let the holiday bargain shopping begin with stocks that are just too cheap to pass up!! Time to get more for your money.
Leigh Gallagher: Neil, it’s time to get back into the homebuilder stocks. Some of these names have lost 40 percent of their value. The smart money is starting to get back in them. Two weeks ago, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation bought seven homebuilding stocks.
Neil Cavuto: The prominent ones?
Leigh Gallagher: The prominent ones and some smaller ones. They’re starting to move and now’s the time to get in before the analysts start recommending them. I really like one of the biggest names, Pulte Homes (Zune, but Microsoft (Milton Friedman and Ronald Reagan predominated in America in the malaise of the 1970s, which made America again the most vibrant and innovative economy in the world. We have problems, but we’re far better than the rest of the world and we should be thankful for it.
Jim Michaels, Editorial Vice President: What we really should be thankful for is what creates our economy and that is our free society. Where people can express themselves and exercise their talents and enterprise. And for all the problems that illegal immigration causes, it’s one great tribute to our country that hundreds of millions of poor people want to come here to do menial jobs to give their children a better shot than they could in their home country.
Lea Goldman, Associate Editor: I’m also very thankful for the immigrant population. The immigrant population supports the home building, agricultural and service economies in this country. I’m grateful for them and I say bring more in. Especially skilled technicians and engineers, we need more of them.
John Rutledge, Forbes Contributor: This is the richest, freest economy in the world, and because of that we can do all kinds of things. We were born here on the largest stock of capital that’s ever been in one place and we’ve got to find a way to keep it. We keep it by competing for capital by keeping our taxes and regulations in line. If that capital moves off shore, paychecks go with it.
Elizabeth MacDonald, Senior Editor: I’m thankful for the people out there protecting our economy and our free society and the American people. They are the unsung heroes in the military and in agencies like the FBI. They deserve all of our support and gratitude. I’m also grateful for the American worker. A record 139 million people are working in this country. They are the innovative force working to move this economy forward.
Quentin Hardy, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief: The economy is an extraordinary thing. The things that drive it are the free expression of ideas and the access of information. Who wouldn’t trade places with an American today? Whether you liked the election results or not, you had the opportunity to vote. For this I am thankful.
Informer: $trong U.S. Stocks
Steve Forbes, Editor-in-Chief: I like doggie stocks. The real dog of dogs is Ford (Hollister, which is a surf shop. I think it will go much higher.
Elizabeth MacDonald: Abercrombie spooked traders recently by saying it was going to spend something like $260 million to upgrade their stores. That’s a lot of money.
Flipside: Military Draft: Good for America and Stock Market!
Michele Steele: I know this is an unpopular idea, but I think at the end of the day a draft will give us more discipline, better education and you might even get less crime. More importantly, you’re going to get accountability in wars and you’ll get public outrage over going to war with inadequate equipment.
Rich Karlgaard, Publisher: If you want a fighting force of pasty-faced geeks and dope-smoking slackers, the draft is the way to do it. It would be bad for the markets because it would show that government overreached and it would surely be bad for the military. Have we learned nothing from Vietnam? Morale was terrible because we had the draft.
Bill Baldwin: Let the Democrats bring back the draft. Let them include women. Let them discover that wars are fought better with technology than with human lives. The ultimate outcome could be better appropriations for drone aircrafts, anti-missile defenses and military R&D. Ultimately that would lead to greater safety for this nation and a better economy.
Steve Forbes: You have to fight on the ground. We learned that in Iraq and other wars. As for the draft preventing wars because of outrage, it didn’t prevent the Vietnam War and it didn’t prevent us from being dragged into WWII. The voluntary military is working, don’t mess with it!
Quentin Hardy: I think there are two critical things to remember here. One, as a powerful nation we fall in love with our monstrous power. We fall for “shock and awe” and forget that war is the taking of lives. And if everyone was involved it might give people a reality check about what we’re getting into when we go to war. No. 2, WWII had a draft. Having everyone involved led to great outcomes like the G.I. bill and the ending of segregation.
Jim Michaels: The draft would not be good for the markets. I think it’s hog wash. Charlie Rangel didn’t consult the Pentagon. They were very happy with Milton Friedman’s volunteer army. The military is the best integrated institution in our society, more so than our universities or Congress. They don’t want a draft that would bring in all the problems of society.
Makers & Breakers
GARMIN (Hezbollah looking to take over the Lebanese government. The Israelis have to defend themselves. I’m looking for a violent conflict to break out by January. Therefore, higher oil prices. It's going to be bad.
Sara Nunnally, Material Profits: I absolutely do not agree. We are 30 percent below those oil highs that we saw back in July. I don't think oil prices are going to rise 30 percent in two months. That means there is no way that gasoline is going to hit $4 in January.
Gary Kaltbaum, Kaltbaum & Associates: There is absolutely no way. I'm not saying oil prices won't go higher, but this is the type of prediction that only gets you in trouble. There is no shot of oil prices going up 75 percent to 80 percent in just over a month's time. Demand has slowed down across the world. Economies are slowing down. I know about terrorism, but it has been out there for so long. No shot.
Jonathan Hoenig, Capitalistpig Asset Management: As an investors, you have to deal with probabilities, not possibilities. Could oil prices move higher? Yes. But we are talking about a 70 percent move in just a matter of months from a very weak commodity. I think all the commodity bulls are going to be talking about the weak dollar next year. To me, that’s a more interesting trade right now.
Wayne Rogers, Wayne Rogers & Company: I think Gary is right. It would take a major conflagration of some kind. You are leaving heating oil out of all this. New York has been unseasonably warm. So I don’t see that happening at all. I think prices are going to stay relatively stable, unless there is a terrorist act. But how can anyone predict that?
Todd Schoenberger: Let's start incorporating all these other factors. We can talk about the demand for heating oil, OPEC production cuts, growing economies…
Jonas Max Ferris, MAXfunds.com: We could talk about this week’s oil inventories being higher than expected. Oil is down substantially from the speculative peak. It's going to $40 a barrel and gas will be under $2 a gallon for most of next year because demand is falling. The economy is slowing and the consumer has given up.
Todd Schoenberger: Think about this summer, when we had the Hezbollah and Israel conflict going on. Oil was $78 plus a barrel and we were well over $3 for a gallon of gas. That’s going to happen again and next time it will be catastrophic. And when you start incorporating all these other factors, you’re looking at $4 plus a gallon.
Gary Kaltbaum: You are forgetting one thing about the markets, though. All this is already baked in the cake. The market already knows about the problems in the Lebanon and the Middle East. It knows all this and prices are still calm and relaxed.
Terry: But what if there was an escalation of tensions with Iran?
Gary Kaltbaum: No doubt prices would spike a little bit, but I don’t think that much. I think the back has been broken for oil right now. I think it can go higher over time but not in a month or two.
Todd Schoenberger: Iran is the fourth largest exporter of oil on the planet. Any type of conflict is going to affect prices of oil and not just a little bit.
Sara Nunnally: I agree with Todd’s scenario but not for $4 gas by January. I think we will see that these problems are going to be persistent. We might even have a severe escalation in the near-term, but I think your time line is a little bit off.
Jonas Max Ferris: How do you like the global nuclear scenario? That’s not a great scenario. The escalation in the economy is what drove oil prices higher. Supplies couldn’t go up as fast as the global demand.
Todd Schoenberger: The world consumes 85 million barrels of oil a day yet we only pump 86 million out of the ground each day. Any type of conflict, any type of slowdown from the fourth largest exporter is going to cause prices to go up.
Jonas Max Ferris: But any slowdown from the biggest consumer of oil, America, is going to cause it to go down.
Terry Keenan: But it doesn't look like the economy here in the U.S. is slowing down too much. What tensions with Iran escalate? What if we do have a colder than normal winter?
Jonathan Hoenig: Well, that's the name of the game, “What if?” Todd, I’m scared to death of militant Islam. We should be fighting these people and driving them into the ground. Instead we want to make friends with them and sit down for a chitchat.
Terry Keenan: Wayne, you have hung in with some of your oil plays and a lot of them have done well, even as prices come back. Do you think oil prices could go higher?
Wayne Rogers: This is all predicated on some conflagration braking out. I don't think so. I once took a course in mind reading but I failed. I don't know how anyone knows there’s going to be a conflagration. I’m not that smart, I can’t see that far in the future. If it happens, sure, prices will go up. But who knows that it's going to happen?
Todd Schoenberger: Look at the information coming out of Tehran. That's the bottom line. They are saying they are going to have a nuclear device. Plus a high-level cabinet official in Lebanon was just assassinated this past week.
Jonas Max Ferris: How are they going to pay for their nuclear program when they can’t sell oil in the world market? That’s where all their money comes from. They don't want to not sell oil.
Todd Schoenberger: Oil cash has increased four fold since September 11 for Middle East countries.
Terry Keenan: They have been stockpiling it, but the Iranian stock market has been suffering because of what has been happening.
Todd Schoenberger: Bottom line is they have a real problem with inflation in Iran right now. They need oil prices to go up.
Gary Kaltbaum: Wall Street is littered with predictions like this that do not come true. I need to see oil prices come out of this little slump. Probably move above $63-64. I think George Bush and John Kerry will have tea and crumpets before we see gas prices at $4 again. It's not happening here.
Best Bets: CEO pay: How Much Is Too Much?
The Democrats are pushing an agenda of what they call, “economic fairness.” One target is excessive CEO pay. So, when it comes to executive compensation, just how much is too much?
Jonathan Hoenig, Capitalistpig Asset Management: As much as a market will pay. This is a free country and people have the right to make as much as they can earn. I happen to believe that most CEOs earn the money that they make.
Terry Keenan: They’re worth $100 million, $200 million? There are dozens that make that much.
Jonathan Hoenig: The company rests on the CEOs shoulders. It doesn't take a lot of brainpower to stock shelves at Wal-Mart (Tom Cruise gets paid $20 million to make bad movies? How do you put a price tag on that? Maybe they should put a cap on that.
Wayne Rogers: That's because the people who run the studios are stupid. And I know actors are wildly overpaid, including me at one time.
Jonas Max Ferris, MAXfunds.com: And Tom Cruise doesn't have his golfing buddies on the compensation committee like a lot of these corporate CEOs. As far as how much you can make, there is nothing more American than making billions of dollars starting a business. However, I have a problem if you are a hired CEO and you load up the board and the compensation committee. These guys are getting money for mergers that never happened and for stock option allocations that are backdated.
Wayne Rogers: By the way, when the stock goes down, the CEO never suffers. Why shouldn’t he suffer when the stock goes down?
Terry Keenan: Lots of times they just get more options when the stock goes down.
Sara Nunnally, Material Profits: Their pay should be tied to the company’s performance not the stock performance. It should go up if the company is performing well and it should go down if the company is performing poorly.
Terry Keenan: Jonathan, does it worry you that many of the most grossly overpaid CEOs were the guys from Enron and WorldCom? Do you think that the two go hand-in-hand? They cheat on their pay and they cheat their shareholders?
Jonathan Hoenig: I don’t believe that’s true. It’s not Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., or Chuck Schumer’s, D-N.Y., decision about who is overpaid and who isn’t. If you don’t like how much the CEO is paid, sell the stock.
Jonas Max Ferris: It’s not the government; it’s the shareholders. They don’t have enough control to cap these CEO packages.
Wayne Rogers: I want to ask Jonathan this. Why don’t you penalize the CEO if the stock goes down?
Jonathan Hoenig: If he has options he is penalized.
Terry Keenan: No he’s not! They reset the options or they issue new ones!
Jonathan Hoenig: This is just part of the slow trend of thinking that private property is public property.
Jonas Max Ferris: Jonathan, you’ve been buying stocks in countries where CEOs get paid less for comparative businesses and taxes are higher for the last three or four years. Why aren’t you loading up on these U.S. companies with their overpaid CEOs if it’s so brilliant and it makes the best talent work for you?
Gary Kaltbaum: The bigger problem is that the CEOs get to set their own compensation now. The inmates are running the asylum.
Jonathan Hoenig: If I don’t own that company who cares? If I don’t own the stock, it doesn’t matter to me. It is just part of the slow trend, like eminent domain, smoking bans, and pay caps. It’s private property. It’s not Nancy Pelosi’s decision as to who makes what.
Todd Schoenberger: I think everyone here is talking about a very small group of company. There is so much liability to be a CEO in this country. There is Sarbanes-Oxley. CEOs have to sign off on numbers and other people that are doing other things and other jobs.
Wayne Rogers: They have insurance for that! Do you know how many suits are going to be filed this year due to high executive pay? It’s an outrage!
Best Bets: Must-Have Stocks!
Which must-have gifts may lead you to buy some must-buy stocks? Let’s get our group’s best bets!
JONAS’ MUST-HAVE STOCK
Friday's close: $39.63
52-wk High: $52.29
52-wk Low: $35.95
YTD Return: -2.39%
Jonas Max Ferris, MAXfunds.com: I like the PlayStation 3 by Sony. People are saying that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be and that it’s overpriced. But I think Sony’s has a brilliant strategy, which is getting this Blu-Ray HD DVD out and making it the standard for all the gamers buying their unit. I think that’s going to ultimately help Sony come back from the lull the stock has been in since the whole battery recall.
Terry Keenan: It's a hot item, Wayne, but they don’t seem to be able to make enough of them. Do you like the stock?
Wayne Rogers, Wayne Rogers & Company: It’s not just that, Sony is just so big. This is not going to do anything for the stock. The stock has been in a slump for the last five months, I don't see it moving.
TODD’S MUST-HAVE STOCK
RC2 Corporation (RCRC)
Friday's close: $44.10
52-wk High: $46.20
52-wk Low: $30.92
YTD Return: +24.16%
Todd Schoenberger, The Diligent Investor: I like RC2 Corporation. This company makes toys and also some learning instruments for toddlers and infants. Their biggest brand is the Thomas the Engine Train. They also make Learning Curve and Bob the Builder products. They’re looking at 18 percent growth per year. I like this company.
Jonathan Hoenig, Capitalistpig Asset Management: I think this is the kind of stock that private equity groups love. They have very recognizable brand names, and the sector is hot with Mattel (Happy Feet." It topped the box office this past week and I think it's going to be a big winner for them.
Todd Schoenberger: Don't like it at all. They are still paying the price for the worst acquisition in history.
Question: “I heard that stocks do very well in December. What does the crew think will happen this year?” - Anthony, Columbus, Ohio
Terry Keenan: Historically it’s one of the best months for stocks. The Dow is already up about 15 percent for the year. Are we in for a good December?
Gary Kaltbaum, Kaltbaum & Associates: My biggest issue is that we are extended, we’re stretched, we’re overbought, and we’re a bit frothy. I think we’ll stall or pullback. However, December is usually pretty good so I don’t see any disasters on the horizon.
Jonas Max Ferris, MAXfunds.com: I was looking for 12,000. We exceeded it. I think stocks will fall this December. This market is already up a lot in 2006, so I don’t see the “December effect” being as relevant this year.
Jonathan Hoenig, Capitalistpig Asset Management: I don’t buy this whole seasonality idea that the market tends to be good in December. The most important market you are in is the one you are in right now.
Wayne Rogers, Wayne Rogers & Company: I agree with Jonathan’s point. I think December won’t be good for stocks, but January will! January will be stronger than December.