Source: MarketWatch

Yes, it’s going to get worse, a whole lot worse … Bill Gross warns this is the “New Normal. Forget 10% returns. Think 5%”. … Economist Larry Kotlikoff, author of The Coming Generational Storm, warns: “Let’s get real. The U.S. is bankrupt. Neither spending nor taxing will help the country pay its bills” … Economist Peter Morici warns: “Unemployment is stuck near 10%. Deflation coming. Stock market threatens collapse. The Federal Reserve and Barack Obama are out of bullets. Near zero federal funds rates, central bank purchases, a $1.6 trillion deficit have failed to revive the economy.” … Simon Johnson, co-author of 13 Bankers, warns: “We came close to another Great Depression, next time we may not be so lucky.” Why? Because Wall Street’s already well into the next bubble/bust cycle — the “doom cycle.”

Warning: More bad news ahead. Welcome to a bleak second half 2010, worse for 2011.

It’s early morning: In comes economist Gary Shilling’s new Insight newsletter, just before I head for the kitchen to make my wife’s breakfast. Gary’s “Mid-Course Checkup” doesn’t raise my spirits. Sure, he’s got bragging rights. His January forecasts are still on the money. But don’t you just hate guys like him? Brilliant. Honest. Great track record. I guess that’s why he’s been a long-time Forbes columnist. Investors listen when he talks.

After cooking her breakfast I’m flipping through the L.A. Times’ entertainment section, avoiding the business and financial pages. Didn’t want to spoil my breakfast too. Suddenly, big headline stops me: “Buy, Sell, Hope.” Hope? What’s that? Good news about markets? You buy, you sell, you hope? Is “hope” America’s last market strategy?

No, “Buy Sell Hope” was a grabber headline. A story about moviemakers buying film rights of bestsellers hoping to sell lots of movie tickets to millions who bought the book. Doesn’t always work. A metaphor: Economic theories often fail. The focus: Julie Roberts’s new film “Eat Pray Love,” based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s 8 million copy bestseller, a book filled with New Age advice rivaling the best of Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra.

But that gave me a bright idea: Let’s blend the two. See if we can brighten some of Shilling’s gloomier forecasts and recommendations for 2010-2011 with some of Gilbert’s upbeat advice … imagining “Pretty Woman” Julia, the Eat-Pray-Love lead, doing a voice-over for Gilbert. So here we go: First, Shilling’s 6 “buys,” then the 11 “sells,” 17 strategies for 2010. He admits some mixed results, but he’s “sticking with them for the second half” and on into the coming dark days of 2011. I’m sticking with Julia:

1. Buy Treasury Bonds: Stay with this big winner. Stockholders hate them, but this is a safe haven in the coming deflation storm on into 2011. Long maturities. Zero-coupons. Lower commissions. That’s “Insight.” Now imagine Eat-Pray-Love’s Julia’s voiceover: “There’s no trouble in this world so serious that it can’t be cured with a hot bath, a glass of whiskey and the Book of Common Prayer.” Okay, guys would prefer an NFL game with his buddies and a Bud. Winners all around.

2. Buy Income-Producing Securities: Still viable. Stock market’s gone nowhere for 12 years, says Shilling. Pick selective income-producers: utilities, drugs, telecoms, hi-grade munis, preferreds, etc. Buy direct or ETFs. Then Julia reminds us: “God never slams a door in your face without opening a box of Girl Scout cookies.”

3. Buy Consumer Staples and Foods: Less volatility than S&P 500. Hey, you gotta eat, brush teeth, wash your clothes. Good bet in good and bad times. Julia agrees: “In a world of disorder and disaster and fraud, sometimes … the meal is the only currency that is real.”

4. Buy Small Luxuries: Stay aboard. Yes, discounts, house brands, frugality’s in. But still, we all want the best of the little things, “cheap chic,” say Gary and Fred. Not Julia’s Girl-Scout cookies, treat yourself with favorite chocolates, wine, cigars.

5. Buy The Dollar: Should continue to rise. Bet on futures, puts, ETFs on the dollar index. Julia is patriotic and spiritual: “Faith is belief in what you cannot see or prove or touch. Faith is walking face-first and full-speed into the dark.”

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