Caveat Lector! Ten Predictions for 2010
I said it last year - and Ill say it again. There is only one activity more thankless than predicting the future - and that is publicly sharing your predictions.
Judge for yourself.
Meanwhile, its onto 2010:
AIG CEO Robert Benmosche will be voted CEO of the Year.
Benmosches abrasive morale-building exercise at AIG will take hold. The U.S. pay czar will give Benmosche leeway on pay. And a continuing rebound in the markets will give AIG a shot at repaying a good chunk of taxpayer money.
Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman will do an about-face on the banks lower risk corporate strategy.
About now, new CEO Gorman is probably learning that the meager profits of a retail brokerage cant pay for all those monster Wall Street bonuses. Expect Gorman to decide that Morgan Stanley should be a lot more like trader Goldman Sachs, after all.
Goldman Sachs will pay out big bonuses, be publicly vilified for a month and then go quietly back to printing profits.
The U.S. Congress and the media will go berserk when Goldman announces the size of its 2009 bonus pool. But the outrage will be brief and of little lasting consequence. The hate Goldman Sachs story has been running just too long.
The GM turnaround will drag on. Forget a 2010 IPO.
GM is addicted to hefty sales incentives to move the cars and new CEO Ed Whitacre knows it. In 2010, he will slash incentives and end up abandoning GMs 20% U.S. market share target to find profitability. The search will prove elusive.
Fiat will seek to renegotiate the terms of its investment in Chrysler.
With Chryslers market share in a death spiral, Fiat will finally grasp that this dud is exactly that - a dud. By autumn, Fiat will threaten to walk away from Chrysler unless the UAW and U.S. taxpayer offer up even more concessions.
Washingtons twin-obsessions in election year 2010 will be to create jobs and cut the deficit. Little will be accomplished on either count.
Congress will authorize billions more in stimulus that wont be called stimulus and wont actually create jobs. And Congress will convene a bi-partisan deficit cutting commission that wont do much either. Until investors stop buying US Treasurys, why should Congress change its ways?
The story of the year will be the New York City trial of Khalid Sheik Mohammed.
The OJ Simpson trial proved that nothing gets the masses as excited as murder and celebrity. Throw in Flight 253 and the ambitions of dozens of terrorists, trial lawyers, prosecutors, politicians and aggrieved 9-11 families and you have a story that will run and run.
Final predictions: Weak economic growth will continue into 2010. By spring, the Obama White House will be forced to the political center and U.S. businesses will finally believe in a modest recovery.
Here is my best guess - and thats all it is - for how the U.S. economy and markets will look in 2010:
2010 U.S. unemployment rate (average): 10.2%
2010 S&P 500 index (year-end): 1300
2010 10-year Treasury yield (year-end): 5.0%
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