IF 2016 was a year of shocks, what will the next 12 months bring? It is time for the annual tradition (dating all the way back to 2015) when this column tries to predict the surprises of the coming year.

By definition, a surprise is something the consensus does not expect. A regular survey of global fund managers by Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML) points to what most people believe. Following the election of Donald Trump, investors are expecting above-trend economic growth, higher inflation and stronger profits. They have invested heavily in equities and have a much lower-than-normal exposure to bonds.

So it is not too difficult to see how the first surprise might play out. Expectations for the effectiveness of Mr Trump’s fiscal policies are extraordinarily high. But it takes time for such policies to be implemented, and they may be diluted by Congress along the way (especially on public spending). Indeed, it may well be that demography and sluggish productivity make it very hard to push economic growth up to the 3-4% hoped for by the new administration. Neither fiscal nor monetary stimulus has done much to lift Japan out of its torpor,…Continue reading