Undeterred by a dismal performance prognosticating on 2013, Blackstone Group strategist Byron Wien is back with his bets on what will make news in 2014.
Wien, who has published a list of "10 Surprises" every January since 1986, got eight of his 10 predictions wrong last year: Iran did not go nuclear, stocks—and notably bank stocks—soared, oil failed to fall as much as he expected and other commodities plummeted rather than rose and Republicans balked at immigration reform.
This year, he's predicting a sharp correction for U.S. stocks followed by another strong year for the Standard & Poor's 500 Index, which he sees ending 2014 up 20%, and the opposite for Japanese stocks: Early gains followed by a 20% correction. Wien expects the U.S. economy to boom as "Fed tapering proves to be a non-event" while China's growth rate will slow. Emerging markets outside of Mexico and South Korea will struggle. Oil and agricultural commodities will rise, as will the U.S. dollar and U.S. Treasury bill yields. And, perhaps Wien's biggest surprise, the struggling Obamacare will see a "remarkable turnaround," pushing the president's approval ratings up and leading to Democratic victories in November's mid-term elections.
Wien describes his surprises as having a better than 50% chance of coming true. His also rans—which he thinks are somewhat less probable—include the rise of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) as the clear front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's bowing out of the Democratic race. He also believes that the bitcoin's value could collapse "as investors realize that it cannot be used as collateral in financial transactions and its principal utility is for illegal business dealings," and that President Barack Obama will move towards thawing relations with Cuba.