The Guest Blog

Predictions 2010: Stocks, Jobs, Inflation & More

A funny thing happened on the way to Armageddon.

New York Stock Exchange, lower Manhattan, New York City.
Photo: Oliver Quillia for

One year ago, the world braced for total economic collapse. We writhed in shock and fear in the wake of Bear Stearns-Lehman Brothers-AIG-Merrill Lynch-Wachovia-Countrywide et al.

The experts declared, "Game Over". The Wall Street model was dead and profits would take years to recover; the consumer was exhausted; credit markets were frozen: and the economy would languish for years to come. As for mergers & acquisitions and hedge funds and the private equity business: fuhgeddaboudit.

They were, all of them, just wrong, wrong, wrong. Our economy is healing more quickly than legions of pixel pundits ever believed possible. I’m sorry to gloat, guys, but while many so preached doom a year ago, I was sellin’ the hope.

Last November, I posted nine predictions for the new year, most of them in the searching-for-hope category. One year later, by my reckoning, I was right, more or less, on eight out of nine (see below). Now that I’m feeling a little cocky, here's my big-picture predictions for 2010.

1. Stocks.

The Dow 30 will have another volatile year, dipping below 10,000 a time or two before closing year-end at 11,650.

2. Economy.

We won’t have a second-dip recession; instead GDP will surprise the experts again by growing 3.0 percent or better for the full year.

3. Job Market.

Growth returns by the start of the second half of the year and a robust spring-back in hiring will startle the doubters.

4. Inflation.

Inflation smation. It will run below 2.0 percent for most of the year.

5. General Electric.

GE will spin out or sell off a few huge businesses to focus mainly on heavy-metal infrastructure for the developing world. Goodbye light bulbs and, maybe, medical-imaging; hello, partial-stake spin or IPO for GE Capital. (GE, of course, is the parent company of CNBC and ... for now)

6. Citigroup.

Citigroup will cease to exist. Breakup artists will descend to chop it and sell off the pieces.

7. Goldman Sachs.

Wall Street powerhouse Goldman will pump out even higher net income in 2010 than it did in 2009, and move early to buy out the preferred stake it sold to Warren Buffettat the height of the Great Meltdown of late ’08.

8. Health Care.

Obamacare will stall on a revolt by middle-class taxpayers, once they realize this trillion-dollar entitlement would also cover 15 million illegal aliens.

9. Obama.

The president will suffer a setback in the mid-term elections. The Democrats will lose seats in both the House and Senate. The good news—this will force Bam back to the middle, and that would help the markets.

10. Taxes.

The Dems’ mid-term spanking and a still-mending economy will force Obama to leave in place a couple of the Bush tax cuts that otherwise expire at the end of 2010. My bet—the lower rates on capital gains and dividends.

Grading 2009 Predictions

1. A corporate smashup.

Home run. Last November I named Citigroup, Sony , Time Warner and General Electric as candidates for major break-ups. Since then, Citigroup yielded control of Salomon Smith Barney to Morgan Stanley and sold off the high-risk Phibro trading unit. Time Warner spun off cable systems and America Online. And GE is selling NBC Universal to Comcast.

2. Goldman Sachs will go private.

A miss. But as I wrote a year ago: “I am making this up.”

3. Banks will reap billions on overdone write-offs.

Developing. AIG recorded $5 billion in write—ups in its most recent quarter; other banks will do the same.

4. Ken Lewis will take a tumble.

Home run. I’d predicted he would become the scapegoat when Merrill Lynch deal and Countrywide blew up on him. Now Lewis is retiring early, under pressure.

5. Recession chic.

On target. No-label brown bags were used at high-end stores for a while, as consumers felt pressure to pull back, but as I had anticipated, that profitless piety has begun to fade.

6. Shabby chic.

Bingo. Distressed assets, as I had forecast, have attracted billions of dollars in new private equity funds raised by such contrarian gamblers as BlackRock, John Paulson and UBS. Some 54 funds now are raising $52 billion in this sector.

7. Print media will survive.

Said only partly in jest. Since then the red-ink-stained wretches have managed a nascent comeback, and prices of media stocks are up big. New York Times Co. , and News Corp  have doubled from their March lows, while Gannett is up almost five-fold. So I’ll take it.

8. Big 3 Bailout.

I’d predicted that the big carmakers would land a first round, then would come back to plead for more. Which happened, in spades. And we’re on the line for more.

9. The next bubble begins.

Winner. I felt Wall Street would mend enough by late 2009 to devise the next great black box and even took a guess on where it would focus: insurance annuities. Sure enough, that garnered Page One coverage in the New York Times a few months ago.