A new year means a new start. Resolutions are made and we all hope to be better people. it’s also a time for predictions, which shrewd people can write in a way to not look bad in another 363 days. It’s not just about making them vague and easily attained, no – a good prediction can be an excuse for not being a better person.
That’s my way of saying that we can expect a lot of ugly in 2019, but we shouldn’t let that get us down. here’s what I see happening in the year ahead. Bookmark this and make fun of me if you want.
We can expect a lot of turmoil and chaos, meaning that predictions are especially difficult. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, however. Our world is one of bounded chaos, or unpredictability within reasonable limits. Simply describing those limits, as well as what to watch for, can help a lot.
What should we be looking for? Here’s what I see coming:
Stocks: We are in a Bear Market, despite an effort to bring it up at the end of 2018. That won’t help much. The S&P500 was down 6.2% in 2018, -14.5% from the peak. It will drift mostly sideways for the year, with a slight tendency to be down. Where is the bottom? We will test 2180 on the S&P, or about 20,300 on the DJIA, but that may not be the bottom. It depends on a lot of things.
What should we watch for? A recession.
Recession: So far, we do not have the actual warning signs of a recession. I actually expect that we will not have one, technically defined as two quarters of decline in GDP. Job growth is very strong, and even if it pares back a little there is pressure on wages. This is being matched by inflation, so we can expect the Fed to keep raising rates no matter how much brokers and politicians whine about it.
What should we watch for? The spread between the 10yr Treasury Bond and 2yr Note – called the 10-2 spread. It’s currently 0.21%, and if it goes negative we have the best sign of a recession.
Trade: I expect that the trade war will cool down in 2019. I don’t see that it’s getting Trump anything at all, but he will try to bargain his way to a better position. As he seems weaker, no one will bargain. That means that nothing will happen at all, either good or bad. Europe will continue to court China, rather shamelessly, and Iran will find new and creative ways around sanctions. International negotiations will appear to go dark to us in the US, as nothing of importance will involved us.
What should we watch for? China making long-term deals, and possibly even alliances despite a long-standing tradition of not doing so. But these will be with Europe, Africa, and iran if they can swing it.
Congress: A new party is taking the House. Speaker Pelosi is a capable warrior, and I do not expect her to stray too far from the mission of health care reform and expansion, along with general protection for workers. The question outstanding is whether Hose Democrats can work with the Senate to produce a real reform of some kind, or it they are better off grandstanding with something that’s not going anywhere. It could go either way.
What should we watch for? Impeachment, which will consume everything. It’s vital that the House first demonstrate good will and faith by getting something together, even if it doesn’t pass – and there may not be time to do that.
Impeachment: I expect there will be an impeachment this year. Predicting the response to that is going to be impossible. We are going to learn the details of Mueller’s investigation, and I expect them to be devastating. Senate Republicans are already turning on the President, and they will feel compelled to. Will he resign? Hard to say. Trump would be wise to protect his business empire and just go off quietly, but it may be too late for that.
What should we watch for? Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is the chair of the Judiciary Committee, and he’s the one that can turn on Trump and make things happen.
All the rest: A song will become popular which people my age hate. The Oscars will go to pictures no one has seen, but will then be binge watched on Netflix by millions. Retail stores will close all around the nation, and shopping malls will be declared dead. Electric cars will become immensely popular very rapidly, and investment in charging infrastructure will be huge.
What should we watch for? These are the easy ones, they should all happen without a problem.
There you have it. As you can see, my resolution this year is to not be cornered. But go ahead and try.