Predictions for 2011
Once more I am going to venture to make some predictions for the coming year. And again I must warn my reader(s) that I am not giving any investment advice. If you had followed my predictions last year, you would have lost your shirts, especially on commodities and interest rates.
Since few, if any of you, remember the predictions I so boldly made last year, I will remind you that I was by and large wrong on most counts. But this does not deter me from trying again.
I was closer to the mark in forecasting growth rates for the US, Canada and the EU than most other “tea leaf” readers. I was bullish on the economic prospects for the US last year, and I continue to be this year even though real GDP growth in the US will fall short of the 4% to 4.5% I had expected. This year I expect the US economy to grow close to 4.5%, and US economic growth will once more outpace economic growth in Canada (3.5%) and the EU (2% to 2.5%). By the way, the EU and the Eurozone will not fall apart.
Before US companies begin to spend their cash hoards on new equipment, IT, product development and production capacity, they will engage in an orgy of merger activity. CEOs with a lot of cash on hand are dangerous and oftentimes reckless. They need to do something dramatic to persuade their critics that they are worth every penny of what they are paid. What better way to do so than to make major acquisitions. most of which will prove to be disasters.
This year, the unemployment rate in the US finally will begin to decline, and once more I predict that by year-end the unemployment rate should be around 8.5%. This trend will bode well for Obama’s re-election chances going into 2012.
Inflationary pressures will not surface this year, as “Helicopter” Ben, the chair of the Federal Reserve, will continue to do a masterful job in controlling liquidity and inflationary pressures in the economy. The inflation rate will continue to hover below 2% in the US, and Canada also should experience similar levels of inflation. Despite the rather benign inflation outlook, the Federal Reserve will start increasing interest rates in the second half of the year, but the increases will be modest. The Bank of Canada will follow the lead of the Fed and will re-start its policy of increasing rates. Long rates in both countries should move back towards 5.5%, a more reasonable long-term level.
I erred dreadfully in my predictions for gold, oil and commodities in general, expecting all of them to fall sharply by the end of 2010. Oops! But taking a page out of Nouriel Roubini’s playbook, I once more predict that 2011 will not be a good year for commodities.
Oil prices should peak between $100 and $120 a barrel before they drop off sharply towards the $50 to $60 range. Similarly, gold prices might peak around $1,500, but by year-end they will be closer to $700 per ounce.
The Democrats did poorly in last year’s mid-term elections, contrary to what I had predicted. There was no election in Canada, but Gordon Brown did lose the UK election. This year I can state quite definitively that there will be no further losses by the Democrats in the Congress. There also will not be another election in the UK. However, I believe that 2011 will be the year that Harper calls an election in Canada, and he will win a slim majority as the Liberals implode. Michael Ignatieff will retire to write his memoirs, which will not be a best seller.
Social networks will become passe as users become increasingly frustrated with the growth in advertising and marketing thrown at them. Global warming will continue drift into obscurity as an important issue, and there will be several obituaries for cap and trade schemes. The Doha Round also will drift with no new agreement this year, and the G20 too will be seen as an increasingly ineffective institution.
Finally, as I predicted last year, I expect to see images from the full body scanners show up with increasing regularity on the Internet.
The opinions expressed in this blog are personal and do not reflect the views of either Global Brief or the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs.