December 31 is technically the end of the first decade of the 21st century. It is perhaps an appropriate time to review one’s predictions. It seems to me that I got some things right over the last decade. Indulge me while I review the predictions that came true, before turning to those that did not work out as well.
Stock market peak At the end of the 1990s, I felt that the dizzying ascent of equity prices could not continue into the new decade, that there was “…a bubble component in the stock market” (Nov. 20, 1999). This was four months before the bubble burst in 2000. So far so good.
In the 1955 movie version of East of Eden, the legendary James Dean plays Cal.Like Cain in Genesis, he competes with his brother for the love of his father, a moralizing patriarch.Cal “goes long” in the market for beans, in anticipation of an increase in demand if the United States enters World War I.Sure enough, the price of beans goes sky high, Cal makes a bundle, and offers it to his father to make up money lost in another venture.But the father is morally offended by Cal’s speculation, not wanting to profit from others’ misfortunes, and angrily tells him that he will have to “give the money back.”Cal has been the agent of Adam Smith’s famous invisible hand:By betting on his hunch about the future, he has contributed to upward pressure on the price of beans in the present, thereby increasing the supply so that more is available precisely when needed (by the British Army).The movie even treats us to a scene where Cal watches the beans grow in a farmer’s field, something real-life speculators seldom get to do.
Among politicians, pundits, and the public, many currently are trying to blame speculators for the recent boom in oil and other mineral and agricultural products. Are the soaring prices their fault?