As that great geopolitical theorist Carly Simon once observed, "We can never know about the days to come but we think about them anyway, yay." She then went on to say, as ketchup lovers everywhere remember, "Anticipation, anticipation, is making me late...is keepin' me waitin'."
Of course, the tortures of anticipation are well known to observers of the slow-motion train wreck that has been Washington's management of America's financial situation, or the recent, interminable U.S. presidential campaign, or the hideously slow path to oblivion followed by the Assad regime in Syria, or the painfully circular Eurofollies, not to mention the gradual but undeniable degradation of the planet's environment that goes on year in and year out despite our clear knowledge about how to avoid the damage.
The time has come to say "enough." We live in an age in which the average consumer expects instant gratification. There is no reason those who are interested in the bigger issues taking place in the world shouldn't have it too. For that reason, we bring to you the top headlines that you will be looking back at when 2013 draws to a close 12 months from now. Think of it as the year in review, before it happens. Yay:
Forget the fiscal cliff or the debt ceiling. Admittedly, that may seem difficult given the headlines of the moment. The clown show in Washington is diverting for inside the Beltway reporters and creates a kind of artificial drama that makes one periodically wonder if Kris Jenner were actually speaker of the House. But see the economy through the eyes of the market. Washington dithers but hops to when it gets slapped around enough by traders. Meanwhile, there are winds at America's back: An energy boom. Housing markets recovering. Signs of resurgent growth in key sectors. Other big markets a little soft and international investors looking to the United States as a secure place where the real protection of intellectual property can spur innovation. Growth in Canada and Mexico. Insourcing as a real trend bringing jobs back to the United States. That's why smart market observers like Laszlo Birinyi, who were early to call the current bull market, expect record stock market highs in 2013. In his view, people are ready for the slump to be over and the prospect of a bull market will be irresistible.
This has its downsides, in particular the concern that too much growth will make Washington sloppy again, counting on a rebounding economy to make up for its spending sins. But Washington has done us all a favor by becoming so feckless and irrelevant that no one is counting on the U.S. government to lead America out of the boom. Which will leave growth in the hands of people and companies who understand it. Which for Barack Obama, John Boehner & Co. ought to have them remembering that old lyric from "Pippin": "it's smarter to be lucky than it's lucky to be smart."
China (and Some of the Rest of the World) Recovers
American growth will help even if it is modest. But the United States can no longer be the world's locomotive as it once was. It needs help. China hands I have spoken to think 8-9 percent (or even slightly higher) growth in 2013 is likely. This would be a return to roughly 2011 growth levels after a 2012 slump that started to reverse during the second half of 2012. Europe experts think the worst of the crisis may be behind them. Some emerging markets (see below) may show signs of real life even as others (Brazil, Argentina, India) continue to struggle for a while. The net net: 2013 will be the year that the five-year slump associated with the Great Recession really comes to an end, even if many don't feel the benefits for some time to come.