Ten for 2010. Seriously, put your money on them:
1. Goldman Sachs finances and produces a sequel to the 2009 anti-banker film The International entitled Pulpit Fiction. Lloyd Blankfein stars as ex-Interpol agent Louis Salinger, a driven yet dreamy sort of fellow not entirely at home with the concept of perspective. Hired by publicity-shy Icelandic banking group Krashbanki his life's purpose is the widespread securitisation of the revolutionary Krashbanki instrument, the Ephemerally Backed Indulgence (EBIs). A portfolio of EBIs, claims the proselytising Salinger, can buy entry into heaven.
Sinister villain Martin Luther (uncannily interpreted by Willem Buiter) once worked side by side with Salinger at Krashbanki before a bonus payment contretemps. Now he plots a bloody revenge from his employ as Chief Economist at Krashbanki's archival Sillibank. Watch for his scathingly delivered, Dirty Harry-like tag line “Because Jesus endorsed self-interest, punk!”
2. In the face of poor historical precedent (“The Soviets had no idea what they were doing”) President Obama’s December 1, 2009 decision to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan - or one more GI every 21 km2 - secures a remarkable mid-summer 2010 peace accord. The Taliban, the former mujaheddin, communists, assorted reformers, poppy farmers and a motley crew of other hitherto uncooperative tribal warlord interests all admit the recent election of President Karzai was entirely above board and agree to work “together for the greater good”. Transparency International are forced to apologise for the “provocative and without basis” ranking of the country as the 2nd most corrupt in the world. The GIs are all withdrawn by year-end.
3. China’s President Hu Jintao confesses that his country has indeed been manipulating the renminbi and apologises for trying to raise the standard of living of his nation instead of “co-operating” like every other nation does in the global economy. “There was no excuse.” he says between tears in surprisingly fluent, mid-Atlantic lilted English on CNN’s Larry King Live. He continued, “Certainly not our massive industrial over-capacity in everything from umbrellas to shipbuilding that depend totally on export orders. We will just have to do The Right Thing and find ways to stimulate domestic consumption despite the alarming rise in penniless, newly unemployed rioters”.
4. After a 2009 during which central bankers everywhere read or heard that they may possess a secret pleasure zone inside their bodies that, if stimulated correctly, yields intense pleasure (and perhaps even some heady inflationary highs) most of 2010 passes without this alleged “I-spot” being precisely identified as a concrete economic entity. The furious search for the elusive I-spot continues until right up to December when some research teams begin reporting isolated successes (h/t CNN).
5. After losing the June, 2010 UK general election Labour’s Gordon Brown successfully challenges David Cameron for the leadership of the Tory party. Triumphantly returning to 10 Downing Street he declares “This is a momentous day in the long and glorious history of British politics. We have stepped back from the edge of an abyss in whose dark depths lurks a public policy decided by shop stewards over pints of bitter in the smokey back rooms of northern working men's clubs solely for the benefit of avaricious, casino banking, capitalistic wolves. Instead, we will march arm in arm, lock step onto the sunlit prairie of a new democratic dictatorship. Let one hundred flowers bloom instead of Labour boom and bust!”
6. Greek archaeologists working on the underwater site of the ancient Mediterranean harbour and trading centre Pavlopetri uncover a stunning cache of what experts judge to be Mycenaean gold. Initial estimates put the haul at 12,000 metric tonnes worth approximately €300bn – or around 75% of the entire Greek national debt depending on whose statistical service one believes.
Post-find and celebration, Greek Prime Minister Georgos Papandreou puts in a drink-and-dial call to ECB president Jean Claude Trichet transmitting what is later described by diplomats as a “particularly frank conveyance of opinion” regarding the ECB’s earlier refusal to consider any economic aid for the Greeks’ “home-grown” difficulties.
The gold market convulses at the discovery of a trove equal to 10% of the metal's known existing stock. Oil and the euro spike. Greece encourages Italy to take a leaf from its book and divert significant government expenditure to its archaeological service.
7. La Ciciollina, concerned about rising nuclear tensions between Iran and Israel, revives her Middle East mediation technique. She declares "I am available to make love to President Ahmadinejad and Prime Minister Netanyahu to achieve peace in the Middle East. Together or separately. Let me remind everyone what a shame it was Saddam Hussein declined my 1990 and 2002 offers - not to mention my rebuffed 2006 offer to Osama. Just look at where all this hate has led us to!”
Oil, initially steady, drops sharply on rumours of requests by both sides for younger celebrity alternates to the 58 year old Staller.
8. Thought relatively benign at the end of 2009, the H1N1 virus unexpectedly mutates in 2010 and attacks the Apple iPhone, stealing personal data, emptying bank accounts, making prank pizza orders and generally causing mayhem. Interpol rapidly concludes the hybrid virus is the handiwork of an international cabal consisting of the Russian Mafia, militant animal rights campaigners, a global hegemony of Zionist hardliners, Lagos-based Nigerian Muslims and a mysterious sub-group known only as “G”.
Apple shares plunge 65% along with smaller but pronounced drops for the likes of Nokia, Palm and Motorola. Google inexplicably hits 52-week highs whilst the value of UK Premier League transfer deals surges. The prices of pork bellies, oil and flights to Yemen melt up.
Belatedly, the SEC swings into action, condemns all short sellers and asks Harry Markopolos to explain how Madoff might have performed this latest mischief from behind bars.
9. US Treasury Secretary Geithner launches another emergency initiative: the Publicly Underwritten Relief Effort for Commercial Real-estate Assistance Program. The PURECRAP facility targets all commercial property landlords with less than 97% occupancy rates and aims to buy up the voids at average 2007 rates (with a contractual annual rent uplift of inflation + 8.5%).
An army of civil servants is hired to occupy the space, a generous central government headcount increase that insures the smooth administration of not just the PURECRAP but also the TARP, the PPIP, the TALF, the TGLP, the CAP, the TIP, the CPFF, the AMLF and the MMIFF.
PURECRAP is described by President Obama as “Another far-seeing and innovative program of Secretary Geithner’s. It will buttress the perilously poised commercial property market whilst also creating many new and essential jobs. Secretary Geithner continues to enjoy my unwavering support.”
Geithner leaves his post due to “personal reasons” 3 weeks later.
10. As low real interest rates around the globe begin to work what is called by a derided and dismissed few (notably Stephen Roach) “an illusionary magic” and “the papering over of structural faults”, Alan Greenspan finds his reputation fully rehabilitated. Despite the quite phenomenal timing of his May 2008 characterisation of the US economy as being in an “awfully pale recession” (after which equity markets immediately began a nine month fall of 50% and unemployment started its inexorably rise from 5.5% to 10%) the popular press begins once more, as asset prices return to mid 2006 levels, to refer to him as “Maestro”.
Happy New Year!