Fifty years ago, sci-fi writer/prophet Isaac Asimov
penned a series of predictions for our far-flung present day that were surprisingly accurate.
He correctly imagined
automated coffee makers, cordless electronics, self-driving cars, video chat, and the world’s population boom.
Last year our sages fumbled the crystal ball:
Miley was supposed to train-wreck in 2014 and Bit Coins were supposed to sky-rocket!
Speaking of sky-rockets,
Billionaire explorer Richard Branson promised to launch the first group of passengers in 2014.
Instead, the flights look more precarious than ever.
Branson’s SpaceShipTwo went down in a fiery mess during a test flight in October,
killing one pilot, and tempering hopes for space tourism.
Virtually no one predicted the rise of the Islamic State, ISIS.
But what do the sages say of 2015?
1.) Russia stops backing Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
Russia is heading into a nasty recession if not out-right depression.
In traditional currency crises like this, a country receives a loan from the International Monetary Fund.
But that won’t happen for Russia after its incursion into Ukraine.
But Putin could make substantial concessions in Syria by reducing the Kremlin’s support for Assad.
Maybe the U.S. and other countries would accept that. Putin might gamble they would.
2.) Ebola returns to the U.S.
The crisis has died down her for now but it is still ravaging West Africa.
Unless we provide the adequate resources and doctors to get it under control there,
more people with Ebola will enter the United States.
3.) A minimum wage hike passes the Senate.
They don’t go so far as to say it will pass the House.
But raising the minimum wage is very, very popular, even among Republicans.
4.) Amazon enters crisis mode.
For years, Amazon’s stock continually rose despite nearly non-existent profits.
That stopped in 2014 as its revenue growth continued to slow
and the Amazon Fire phone flopped.
The stock is down more than 20% for the year. 2015 looks to be a rocky year for Amazon.
5.) Invasion of the PodCast People.
The breakout success of “Serial,”
the single-case chronicle that spun off from the wildly popular public-radio program
“This American Life,” doubled as a debutante ball of sorts for podcasts.
Serial's success will only pave the way for more.
One area to watch is public radio,
which has been a breeding ground for podcasts as
they allow for greater flexibility in the development process than programs that would fit into the broadcast day
(they don’t have to restrict themselves to a particular length, for instance).
6.) Most economic predictions will suck.
American taxpayers have endured much hardship since the 2008 financial crisis,
and pretty much everybody, from career politicians to human beings, will be better off if the economy continues to improve.
So guess what most pundits who want an audience will write?
7.) The most drastic changes will catch the experts by surprise.
The most exciting part of all this, of course, is we don’t even know what we don’t know.
Nearly no one saw the collapse of the oil markets in late 2014, nor did many see an overture to Cuba coming soon after that.
the looming specter of rising interest rates suggests the stock market rally might finally be in the homestretch.
8.) Oil Collapse and Currencies.
As winter turns to spring, the effects will begin to be felt in the U.S. and Canada where new fracked wells become rarer.
As the Eurozone recovers late in 2015, so does oil, breaking towards $80 by year end.
Through most of the year, the dollar makes gains against the yen and euro,
which are exacerbated by U.S. rate rises. The euro falls to 1.15, the yen to 132.
9.) Stock Market gets sea-sick.
Stocks will rise in 2015,
but not without some volatility as the Fed’s first rate hikes hit in the back half.
Again, we will see multiple compression
as the most expensive stocks on a price-to-sales basis find that delivering higher sales
mostly serves to shrink the multiple rather than raise the price.
Lots of companies suffer from earnings pain thanks to the strength of the dollar.
10.) The year's weird tax cut.
For Europe, the United States and China,
a lower oil price is good news.
It's essentially a tax cut for consumers.
The Economist estimates that the average U.S. motorist could save $800.
11.) The China Pivot ... no, it is not a dance step.
A historic transition is under way in China:
the "pivot" from an economy based on being the "workshop of the world" into one more sustained by domestic demand.
The Chinese leadership is walking a fine line between growth and introducing structural reforms
that include a crackdown on institutional corruption and curbing what's known as "Shadow Banking."
What do you foresee happening in 2015?