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Forecast for 2004

It's time once again for my annual Forecast for the coming year. Year 2003 was a remarkable year for gold enthusiasts and stock traders alike. Gold bugs finally got their wish of a gold price above $400/ounce, while stock market bulls cheered as the Dow finally made it back above the vaunted 10,000 level. Considering the great variety of bull markets in most commodity and stock market sectors, I believe it's safe to say that 2003 was propitious for just about everyone who had a bullish inclination.

The dominant theme in 2003, especially the last nine months of the year, was inflation. Not inflation in the economic sense but inflation in the sense of rising prices across-the-board for equities, commodities, and real estate due to massive injections of liquidity into the U.S. financial system. While we may decry this obvious rescue attempt on the part of the Congress and the Fed from a macroscopic standpoint, it is not ours to criticize as actors in the investing realm -- ours is merely to take advantage of the infusion of liquidity and try to ride the waves. Traders and investors who understood this truism did extremely well in 2003.

In many ways, 2003 was a banner year. Not in a long time was it so easy to make money in the financial markets. In some ways it was like those heady days of the late 1990s when all one had to do was throw a dart at the stock quote section of the Wall Street Journal in order to pick a winner. Beginning in March of 2003 a great number of turnaround candidates began showing up in the charts with the common trait of the 10-week moving average coming up and over the 30-week MA -- a classic turnaround indicator. Thus, chart-based traders (including my subscribers) did quite well by simply following the graphs. Even fundamentally-based traders should have done fairly well simply by taking measure of the monetary "winds of change" (i.e., the billions of dollars in Congressional spending and Fed pumping obviously was destined to have a positive impact on stock and commodity prices). About the only ones who didn't make out like bandits in 2003 were the die-hard bears of the "crash now!" mentality. Yet despite this blunder on their part, I believe they will have a chance to at least partially redeem themselves in 2004 if I am reading the market correctly.

The past year also saw the bottom of the 12-year cycle, which is absolutely dominant! This includes the 4-year Presidential Cycle, so with this major cycle bottom in late 2002 (confirmed in March 2003) it was a cinch that the next 2-3 years, at least, would be mostly bullish. Certainly this has proven true to date.

Now for a word of warning on 2004: While I do expect a continuation of the uptrend for at least the first few months of the year (temporary set-backs notwithstanding), the second half of the year will be slightly less propitious, and especially in the September-November time frame. The final months of 2004 could witness another significant decline (mini-bear market) and I caution investors to watch out for the autumn months. This is because the 10-year cycle is due to bottom in the last part of 2004. The 10-year cycle by itself isn't particularly dominant and I rather suspect this year's cycle bottom will be relatively mild. The 10-year cycle certainly isn't as powerful or as dominant as the 12-year cycle which bottomed last year. But still, the fact that a relatively long-term cycle is coming down hard in the final months of 2004 should give us cause for proceeding with extreme caution heading into the Fall of the year.

The first half of 2004 (through May or June) should be propitious for rising stock prices and rising commodity prices in general. This means gold, silver, and base metals should join in the overall uptrend as they did for the better part of 2003.

Gold should have a beneficial Year 2004 for the most part. This can be seen in the long-term weekly chart of spot gold, with its rising 30/60/90-week moving averages. These dominant intermediate-term averages reflect a rising cycle, trend, and momentum that should carry gold for several months ahead.

Allow me to make a forecast for jewelry sales for the coming year. According to the London Financial Times, sales of platinum jewelry have skyrocketed while gold jewelry sales have lagged behind. I find this astounding if only because it underscores the folly of human nature. Why on earth would anyone pay ridiculous dollars for platinum jewelry (which looks like plain old silver to most people) over the beauty and luster of gold? Only because platinum is sky-rocketing in price and the nouveau-rich are always more impressed with price rather than practical utility or natural beauty when it comes to decor. On this score, I predict that gold jewelry sales will finally start to improve again in 2004 as more and more people finally wake up to the great investment potential as well as natural beauty of the "gift that keeps on giving."

In last year's Forecast I predicted that copper would be one of the better-performing natural resources. For 2004 (and beyond) I foresee a comeback for the "black diamond" -- coal. Coal hasn't exactly been a glamorous investment area over the last 15 or so years, but now the tide is turning in its favor once again. I note with interest that after over a decade of trending below its 3/6/9-year moving averages without even peeking above them, coal has not broken above all three and these moving averages are now in the proper alignment for a bull market cycle to begin. After possibly a sharp pullback in the first or second quarter, coal should continue to make higher highs and lead the base minerals out of the long-term doldrums. Incidentally, this has drastic implications for the expansion of industry, particularly overseas, most notably China.

Speaking of foreign countries, here are my predictions for the stock indices of the major countries for 2004 (generally speaking): Australia mostly up; China sideways for much of the year, then up; Israel mostly up; Japan mostly up; Singapore mostly up; France sideways-to-higher; Germany mostly up; Russia sideways, then up; United Kingdom mostly up.

For U.S. real estate I envision a continuation of the mind-boggling bull market through the better part of 2004, with perhaps a dip in the third and/or fourth quarter. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if this "dip" turned out to be a sharp correction in the Fall of the year, perhaps not unlike the 1987 crash. While real estate looks extremely good heading into the first part of 2004, the problem is that it has enjoyed a near-linear rise for the past couple of years with hardly a "correction" along the way. I believe a correction is forthcoming in real estate, though it will probably be only temporary. For reference, note the strong appearance of the Morgan Stanley REIT Index (RMS), which I use for following the U.S. real estate trend. The 10/20/30-week moving averages in this chart are "textbook" perfect at the moment.

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