Markets continue to boom: Late on election night, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman looked at the Dow futures, which were down, and opined: "If the question is when markets will recover, a first-pass answer is never." Instead, of course, the markets have risen to record highs 2017 was the first time ever that the Dow rose over 5,000 points in a single year. I'm happy with that, my 401k is happy with that, and I guess pretty much everyone is happy with that except maybe Paul Krugman. (I don't know if he took his own opinion seriously enough to get out of stocks that night.)
It's always good fun to mock people's incorrect predictions of markets, which have a tendency to make fools of self-proclaimed experts. But will the boom continue? On the one hand, my gut says we're close to a top, but on the other hand, my track record on market predictions isn't any better than Krugman's. Big booms are usually followed eventually by busts, but those busts don't always come as soon as expected I thought the tech bubble was peaking back in 1997.
Arguably, the spur to investment and repatriation of offshore money provided by the new tax law will keep things rolling for at least another year. I hope so, anyway, and so does my 401k. Such a boom would be great news for cash-strapped retirees, for states and cities with growing pension burdens, and for everyone invested in the markets.
A terror rollback: One of the world's great funding sources for fundamentalist Islam and terror support in general is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In recent months, the Kingdom has gone through dramatic changes that suggest a liberalization and an at least partial retreat from fundamentalism.
In addition, the depressed oil prices brought about by fracking have left the Saudis with less money to spare. That should make a big difference, and if the protests now roiling Iran lead to a new, secular government there, then the other big funder of Islamic terror will have left the field. As we saw after the collapse of the Soviet Union, however "authentic" and grassroots most terror movements pretend to be, they tend to dry up when there's nobody rich funding them. Let's hope!
A quiet Korea: Kim Jong Un is still crazy, but there's at least some evidence that the People's Republic of China is beginning to rethink the wisdom of having a crazy guy possessed of nuclear and biological weapons on its border. I suspect that Chinese intelligence services have sufficiently infiltrated North Korea's military that they could have Kim Jong Un removed whenever they seriously desire it.
I hope that happens in 2018, as the people of South Korea and Japan (and maybe even the United States and Europe) are at too much risk from his nukes, and the people of North Korea are being forced to live in a grindingly poor police state for no other reason than to maintain Kim's power. Moving North Korea to something more like a normal country would be a very good thing.
The Final Frontier: 2017 was a big year for space, especially private commercial space. Elon Musk's SpaceX set a record for the number of launches. Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin launched a crew capsule manned only with a dummy named "Mannequin Skywalker," but will probably launch one with real people next year. Orbital ATK's Cygnus cargo ship completed its eighth resupply mission to the International Space Station. (On the other hand, XCOR Aerospace, in which I was a [very] small investor, went broke.
I told you not to trust my stock advice!) Next year looks like an even bigger year for space than this one, and that's huge: Whatever news you focus on now, it's likely that our era will be remembered by future generations mostly for opening up outer space. May these successes continue!
Sanity returns: As I mentioned in these pages a few weeks ago, social media seem to have driven America or at least its political and pundit classes more or less crazy. As a prediction, this seems like my biggest stretch, but I see some signs that people are beginning to notice and moderate their approach. It's setting a pretty low bar, but perhaps our chattering classes will be able to return to the levels of sobriety and sensibleness they demonstrated 20 years ago. Okay, I said it was a stretch.
But here's to a 2018 where markets are rising, terror is falling, spaceships are flying, and sanity returns. Hey, it could happen!
And regardless of the news, we all have our own personal lives, which tend to go well or badly without much reference to the headlines. I hope that for each and every one of you, 2018 is a year that exceeds even your highest expectations.