It’s a new year: time for a new set of predictions about how the world will look 12 months hence.
Predicting the future is always a tricky business, but economic prognosticators face even more uncertainty than usual this year. Even as they counsel restraint and cautious optimism, experts see a range of challenges on the horizon. Some can trace their roots back many years, to the most recent global financial crisis.
“Since the deep global recession of the late 2000s, the global economy’s performance has been uneven,” says Fergus Cleaver, Auckland-based accounting expert and partner in Cleaver Partners. “It’s likely that this general trend will continue through 2017, with some important modifications that could benefit or disadvantage international enterprises.”
As the world continues to clean up after the past and push forward into an exciting but fundamentally uncertain future, consensus is emerging that it’s poised to be shaped in the near term by these five key economic trends. Here’s what they are, and what they mean for your wallet.
- Rising Interest Rates in the United States
After years of anticipation, it’s finally here: rising U.S. interest rates. At least, that’s the conventional wisdom from the world’s best and brightest economists. The Federal Reserve has already raised rates twice (a total of 0.5%) from post-recession lows, and it’s likely that two to three more raises are on tap for 2017.
That could push the Federal Funds Rate (the U.S. benchmark) north of 1% for the first time in a decade, and make everything from mortgages to credit cards more expensive. On the bright side, savings accounts will finally yield something. (Maybe.)
- Flat or Gradually Rising Oil Prices
Oil prices have recovered somewhat from the rock-bottom levels hit last summer, but they’re nowhere near the highs of a few years ago. And it’s not clear that they’ll get back to those highs anytime soon. Commodities experts expect prices for U.S. and Brent crude to hover in the $50 to $70 per barrel range this year: low enough to benefit drivers and manufacturers, but not low enough to panic producers.
- Continued Strength in the U.S. Dollar (And Weakness in Pair Currencies)
The U.S. dollar is likely to remain strong in the coming year. That’s potentially good news for countries (and companies) that sell into the U.S. market, as U.S. consumers are flush relative to most other parts of the developed world. It’s also likely to keep energy prices in check, as the U.S. dollar is the de facto currency for oil trading. Conversely, the strong dollar may hamper U.S. manufacturing, dampening the country’s growth rate and causing knock-on effects elsewhere.
- Continued Fraying in the Eurozone
With pending elections in France, Germany, and the Netherlands, the Eurozone faces tremendous political risk in the year ahead. If far-right parties win the day in France and Germany, and the Netherlands votes to leave the European Union, the bloc could face a genuine existential crisis, with unpredictable (but likely negative) consequences for the rest of the world.
- Possible Tax Changes in the United States
The incoming U.S. administration has promised an ambitious tax reform package. On a macroeconomic level, its most salient feature is a proposed reduction in the corporate tax rate, coupled with a tax holiday for U.S. companies that pledge to repatriate dollar-denominated funds parked overseas. The details have yet to be worked out, but any large-scale repatriation could have an inflationary effect in the U.S. and an opposite effect abroad.
Which economic trend is your company poised to profit from this year?