Nearly 400 years ago, French philosopher René Descartes wrote"cogito ergo sum" ("I think, therefore I am"). If he were alive today and reporting in English, he might be informing the world, "I am writing an investment forecast for 2011, therefore the world hasn't ended." Two years after the most widely publicized financial crisis in U.S. history-at least, until the next one-financial planners and clients can look at the coming year with a trace of optimism.

Judging from an informal survey, observers generally are upbeat. "Talk of a double-dip recession has just about disappeared," says Brian Gendreau, a Gainesville, Fla.-based market strategist with Financial Network Investment Corp. Even though unemployment is sticking close to 10% in the United States and the housing market is still searching for a firm foundation, modest growth is the consensus forecast for 2011. After a very good year for stocks in 2009 and (as of this writing) further gains in 2010, investors hope to keep climbing back toward the twin peaks of 2000 and 2007.

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