At the start of each year, I lay out my expectations for the ensuing year. Check in the new i3 app to see how my 2012 predictions held-up. With these prognoses, I attempt to take a decidedly non-consensus view. I’m going out on a limb to identify ten things I think the consensus is missing. Without further ado—here are 10 themes for 2013.
1. (Another) Spring Slowdown
The revolutionary wave of demonstrations, protests and fighting in the Arab world that began in 2010 drove oil prices higher and led to uncertainty world wide. In the spring of 2011, the U.S. experienced the “spring slowdown” as individuals and businesses retrenched in the face of these geopolitical-driven concerns. This pattern was repeated in 2012. I fear the pattern will again be repeated in 2013. Coming off a strong holiday season, consumers will naturally retrench. Retailers have no appetite to hold inventory in an uncertain environment so there will be little restocking. Businesses will slow capital expenditures in the face of uncertainties—both domestically and aboard.
2. The End of Deleveraging
History suggests banking crises—similar to the one experienced in the U.S.—last six to seven years. We are now six years removed from the banking crisis that paralyzed the American economy. I expect 2012 will bring with it a year of consumer credit expansion and an uptick in consumer spending.
3. No (Real) Change in Unemployment
Employment growth in the U.S. has been lethargic during the “economic recovery.” I expect the unemployment rate to hover around 7.9 percent a full year from now—showing no real improvement.
4. Retail Consolidation Continues
In 2012, we witnessed significant retail consolidation in both the tech retailing area as well as in overall retail. I expect this to continue in 2013.
5. 2013 Opens the Age of the Algorithm
Digitizing data that previously was un-captured or was only collected in an analog way continues to build. This year will mark the watershed moment when devices and services come together.
6. Housing Moves off the Bottom
Housing starts increased significantly in 2012—moving higher by a greater than expected 25 percent for the entire year. I believe this trend will accelerate in 2013. I expect the growth in housing starts in 2013 will outpace the growth rate recorded in 2012. I also expect housing price appreciation to pick-up in 2013. Last year was the first year since the recession that real estate prices have increased nationally. That will accelerate in 2013.
7. Uncertainties Remain a Key Theme for 2013
10. Corporate Earnings Decline in 2013
My prediction that uncertainties would dictate the landscape in 2012 was spot on. Uncertainties ease until they don’t. For the last three years we’ve had continued flashes of uncertainties—the Arab Spring lead to spring slowdowns in the U.S. in both 2011 and 2012, fiscal uncertainty in the U.S., massive weather events including flooding, droughts and hurricanes, and of course Europe in need of a political solution where no resolution exists. Economies are less forgiving of uncertainties when they are mired in recessions or slow recoveries. This will remain the storyline in 2013 and I expect a myriad of uncertainties to continue to flare up during the year which will dampen expectations.
8. Tablets and Smartphones Remain on Top
As of this writing, the consumer tech industry nominal wholesale revenue is expected to climb six percent in 2012—a slight slowdown from 2013. However, without just two categories—tablets and smartphones—industry wholesale revenue would have declined five percent. Despite my expectations that growth for both smartphones and tablets will slow (but remain positive) in 2013, I expect these two categories will continue to dictate growth for the industry. As smartphones and tablets go—so goes the industry in 2013.
9. U.S. Manufacturing will Increase in 2013
Natural gas is trading at $3.5 in the U.S. while liquefied natural gas is trading at nearly $18 in Japan. Not only does this suggest the U.S. is well positioned to benefit tremendously through export-led growth, but U.S. manufacturing will also experience some revival in 2013.
I’ve saved my most controversial call for last. Consensus estimates currently peg S&P500 operating earnings at between $108 (top-down) and $113 (bottom-up). I expect operating earnings will be decidedly lower in 2013. In fact, I believe corporate earnings will decline slightly from the 2012 level of roughly $100. I’ll discuss my rationale for this last controversial call at the CEA Winter Economic Retreat
and economic expectations for 2013. I hope to see you there.