Davos 2015: Sometimes the pundits get it right

Predictions from 2014 that came true

Snowmen wearing the world’s flags at Davos 2015.

Snowmen wearing the world’s flags at Davos 2015.

 

An evergreen joke among speakers at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos warns against making predictions. Whatever you say, the punchline goes, will be proven wrong.

Remember 2005? Microsoft founder Bill Gates declared “the ol’ dollar, it’s gonna go down.” A year later, the greenback had risen 15 per cent against the yen and 14 per cent versus the euro.

When delegates met in 2008, David Rubenstein, co-founder of Carlyle Group, said the US could avoid a recession. Turns out one had begun the previous month and ran until June 2009.

Economist Nouriel Roubini in 2012 predicted a Greek exit from the euro zone within 12 months. Don’t bother packing any drachma for your trip to Athens, at least not just yet.

Last year’s pundits, though, are due greater respect than the joke might indicate. As the global elite gathers again in the Swiss resort, here are some predictions from 2014 and how things really turned out.

The pundit: Stephen Schwarzman, CEO, Blackstone Group The prediction: The US economy is on a “pretty good path” The proof: Right!

The world’s largest economy gained strength through the year, growing 5 per cent in the third quarter, the most since 2003, and unemployment fell to 5.6 percent, the lowest level since June 2008.

The pundit: Aliko Dangote, Chairman, Dangote Group, and Africa’s wealthiest man The prediction: The global bull market will continue The proof: right! After gaining 24 per cent in 2013, the MSCI World Index of stocks logged a 3 per cent increase last year. In the US, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 11 per cent.

The pundit: Larry Fink, CEO, BlackRock The prediction: There’s “way too much optimism” in financial markets, which were likely to see “much greater volatility” The proof: Mixed

While stocks continued to rise, the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, known as the Vix, spiked several times during the year.

The pundit: Mario Draghi, President, European Central Bank The prediction: A “dramatic” improvement in the health of the euro-area economy, with a slight uptick in inflation The proof: Wrong!

The euro-area is barely growing and consumer prices fell 0.2 percent in December, the first decline in more than five years.

The pundit: Axel Weber, Chairman, UBS AG The prediction: Diverging stances on monetary policy in the US, Europe and Japan will push the dollar higher The proof: Right! The greenback gained about 14 per cent against both the euro and the yen.

The pundit: Mark Carney, Governor, Bank of England The prediction: There’s “no immediate need” to increase UK borrowing costs The proof: Right! The BoE’s benchmark rate remained at 0.50 per cent as economists pushed back forecasts for any tightening of monetary policy.

The pundit: Zhang Xin, CEO, Soho China Ltd. The prediction: The leader of the commercial builder said there wouldn’t be a real estate crash in China The proof: Mixed.

Home prices didn’t crash, but declines deepened, weighing on everything from rail-freight traffic to retail sales. As a result, China’s expansion slowed to the weakest full-year pace since 1990, according to economists’ projections.

The pundit: Christian Meissner, head of global investment banking, Bank of America The prediction: Increased M&A The proof: Right!

The volume of global takeovers rose 42 per cent to $3.4 trillion, the highest level since 2007.

The pundit: Oleg Deripaska, CEO, United Co. Rusal The prediction: Aluminum demand is healthy The proof: Right! Global demand for aluminum increased 6.8 per cent to 52.5 million tons in 2014, exceeding production by 806,000 tons, according to an October report from Standard Bank.

The pundit: Rupert Stadler, CEO, Audi The prediction: Volkswagen’s luxury nameplate will further narrow the gap to market leader BMW The Proof: Right! BMW’s lead over Audi narrowed to 70,619 from 79,658 in 2013 as the BMW brand delivered 1.81 million cars, a gain of 9.5 per cent, while Audi jumped 11 percent to a record 1.74 million cars.

Bloomberg