I will unveil my Top 10 Predictions for 2018 soon, but for now, lets see how I did this year. Original text is following by my comments in bold.
10 – President Obama will not leave office quietly, issuing a number of Executive Orders and controversial pardons during his last few weeks in office (but not Hillary Clinton or Edward Snowden). While the Executive Orders may be quickly reversed once the President-Elect takes office, the pardons will anger Republicans and set a more negative tone as the political transition takes place. In addition, Democrats, still angry over how they feel Republicans have treated President Obama over the past eight years, particularly their obstructionism over filling the current Supreme Court opening, will try to make the confirmation of some of the more controversial Cabinet selections more difficult than is customarily the case. President Obama’s most controversial end-of-office action was commuting the sentence of Chelsea Manning, which did anger Republicans, but overall I would say he left office pretty quietly. Democrats did indeed make the confirmation process for President Trump’s cabinet the longest and most drawn out in history and many were only confirmed along party lines. All in all, I would say that this prediction was pretty accurate.
9 – Whether because of (10) above, or because of the fight Democrats are sure to put up when then President Trump nominates his choice to fill the current Supreme Court vacancy, the Republicans will finish what Harry Reid started – the nuclear option – and legislate away the need for 60 votes for Cabinet and judicial appointments, including the Supreme Court. This certainly happened, as the Republican Senate did invoke the nuclear option to ensure that Neil Gorsuch became a member of the U.S. Supreme Court. The Republicans finished what the Democrats started when last they were in the majority, and the Senate will never be the same again.
8 – As to foreign policy, given the hawkish nature of the proposed military side of the Cabinet, the Trump Administration will be more proactive in working to fight ISIS (whether with our allies or going it alone), but will not send in a large number of ground troops. This will be a subtle change and in many senses a continuation of the current policy. However, rather than give in to Putin as many fear, Trump will actually work better with Putin, particularly as it comes to fighting ISIS in the Middle East, and this partnership will be more effective than the current alliance. Unfortunately, this partnership will not extend to Syria, and Assad will remain in power. Assad remains in power, ISIS has lost most of the land that it had conquered (although they continue to inspire lone-wolf terrorists around the globe) with few if any more U.S. troops in harms way, but relations with Putin and Russia have been less than positive.
7 – As ISIS continues to lose ground in the Middle East (particularly in Iraq), they will continue to export violence to the West. There will be at least one major terrorist attack in Europe, and a continuation of lone wolf attacks around the world, including in the U.S. Domestic non-ISIS terror will also become more common on both the left and the right in an increasingly divided U.S. All of this certainly happened, unfortunately – using trucks as terrorist weapons has become common throughout the world, and in the U.S. all you have to say is Las Vegas and NY.
6 – Political turmoil will continue in Europe. We may see another economic crisis in Greece, a slew of bank rescues in Italy to avoid a complete banking collapse and at least one far right party attaining power. Tensions between Turkey and the U.S. and EU will continue to grow as the post-coup arrests and crackdowns continue; the EU will end talks with Turkey over membership. The Turkish Lira will continue its downward spiral, turning Turkey to the East and stronger Sino-Russian ties. This all pretty much happened, although I don’t think the “turmoil” was as bad as I had anticipated – except perhaps as pertains to Turkey.
5 – Despite rejecting TPP (which Trump will do), relations with Japan and China will stabilize and there will not be a trade war. Trump will talk and negotiate tough, but stop short of doing anything to really escalate tensions. Relations with Taiwan will remain as is. Asian economic growth will eclipse that seen in Europe once again, and the trajectory of the militarization in the South China Sea will flatten out. Actions by the Philippines government will embolden China. Most of this also happened, but what I had not anticipated was the emergence of North Korea as the main headline and the tensions that currently exist. There have not been any trade wars, and a lot of Trump’s rhetoric has proved to be just that.
4 – The U.S. economy will grow slightly quicker than it has the past few years, and inflation will remain tame but rise slightly. The stock market will gain between 5% – 7%, continuing the current bull market, but there will be increased volatility which will follow the ups and the downs of the Trump Administration. The Fed will only raise interest rates two times during the year (25 basis points each time) as slowing growth in Europe and Asia, and perhaps some global destabilizing events, will offset some of the optimism in the U.S. The Fed will retain its overall dovish stance. The new administration will begin to realize the impact of rising interest rates on the national debt and will try to exert pressure on the Fed. Yellen will finish out her term and not resign during the year. I concede that there will probably be a third interest rate in December and that given the current trends the markets will be up more than I thought. But the overall theme of this prediction was correct except that volatility has remained very tame. The markets have basically ignored the gridlock in D.C. as well as many of the geo-political events that are taking place.
3 – The new administration will be able to enact an infrastructure spending bill and some tax reform, including repatriation of money back to the U.S., but the bills will be smaller than President-Elect Trump wants, and will be harder to enact due to resistance from both parties. The Republican Party will remain fractured, but has a vested interest in seeing Trump succeed. There will be changes made to Obamacare, but there will not be a full repeal, as Republicans need to make good on their promise to not have people lose existing coverage or the coverage of pre-existing conditions. There will be a major cyber event as well as an attack on the nation’s electric grid, resulting in increased spending to prevent such attacks in the future. Hmmm. Less progress than the little that I predicted. No infrastructure bill, tax reform may or may not pass this year or early next year and Obamacare continues with no repeal or even fixes. I would say the cyber events did occur – maybe not on the scale that I thought – but the Equifax breach was an eye opener for most of us.
For the financial services industry:
2 – The Fiduciary Rule will not be repealed and the first part of the law will go into effect in April. This issue has not even been on Trump’s mind or agenda. There will, however, likely be changes made to the law throughout the year, somewhat softening the law before its final implementation in January of 2018. There will be increasing talk of repealing Glass-Steagall, but nothing definitive will happen in 2017. The implementation of the Rule was delayed and delayed, so I missed this one. The phase-in is now scheduled to begin next June of 2019. Glass-Steagall was not really even raised as an issue – probably a victim to the gridlock and other issues that took center stage.
Because of increased volatility in the market, active management will regain some momentum in its on-going public relations battle with passive management. ETF growth will slow, and I give a 50% chance of some kind of flash crash caused by ETF trading. Mergers and acquisitions among B/Ds and money managers will be slightly above average, and the overall movement of advisors and RIAs will be below average because of uncertainty over the Trump Presidency. The volatility part of this prediction was wrong, so we didn’t hear that much about active v. passive (at least as compared to other years). There were a few smaller crashes, but nothing major. Movement of advisors was probably a little below expectations.
1 – Finally, some sports predictions: The doping scandal surrounding Russia will continue to increase, but FIFA will not move the 2018 World Cup which is scheduled to be held there. Alabama will repeat as National College Champions, beating Clemson (who will upset Ohio State in the semi-finals), the Dallas Cowboys will beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl, Kentucky will win the NCAA tournament, the New York Rangers will win the Stanley Cup, the Golden State Warriors will reclaim the NBA Championship and the Boston Red Sox will upset the Chicago Cubs in the World Series. About 30/70 here. The World Cup was not moved. Clemson did upset Ohio State, but Alabama did not win the national championship. Missed the Super Bowl (should have stuck with my Pats!). Missed the Stanley Cup and World Series, but did get the NBA right.