"Baloney!" The accusation zoomed like a missile at Barron's 2013 Roundtable, the most amusingly argumentative gabfest this magazine has convened in some years. Stick nine supremely intelligent, colossally opinionated, and verbally gifted investment experts in one room from morning 'til sundown -- as we did last week at the Harvard Club of New York -- and they are apt to kid each other politely, at least for the first 15 minutes. Then introduce such lighthearted topics as the U.S.' runaway entitlement spending, Europe's questionable allegiance to a common currency, and central banks' seemingly incurable addiction to money-printing, and, well, watch the "baloneys" fly.
In other words, our Roundtable members didn't agree on much of anything this year about the economic or investment outlook in the U.S. and abroad, and they weren't afraid to say so in the course of a far-ranging, freewheeling, wisecracking, and occasionally combative conversation. Best we can summarize it, they fell into two distinct camps -- those who foresee an improving economy, quiescent inflation, rising corporate earnings, and decent gains for stocks, and those who expect the interest-rate-suppressing policies of the Federal Reserve a