Strategies & Market Trends : Booms, Busts, and Recoveries

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Nine events that will shape the world in 2017
From Trump taking the oath to European elections — a guide for the next 12 months

DECEMBER 30, 2016 by: Daniel Dombey in London

After a year of political earthquakes, 2017 is unlikely to be an easy ride. Here is a guide to what to watch for across the globe in the coming year, ranging from Donald Trump’s assumption of power to Britain’s slow exit from the EU and the possible end of Isis’s self-styled caliphate in the Middle East.

January: Trump’s inauguration

US president-elect Donald Trump: his language in his inaugural address will set the tone for his administration © BloombergJudging by his behaviour, the 45th US president will be in a hurry to make his mark. Mr Trump has promised to act quickly to pull the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, revise and replace Obamacare, scrap the previous administration’s clean energy policy, and much more.

The new president’s language in his inaugural address and his actions in his first few days in office will set the tone for his administration, even if Mr Trump remains his unpredictable, freewheeling self.

One other ceremonial occasion will be especially keenly watched, Mr Trump’s first summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who US intelligence agencies suspect sought to aid the Republican’s unexpected electoral victory.

March: UK activates Article 50

Theresa May’s government has promised to set out a plan before triggering the EU’s Article 50 divorce procedure © AFPNine months after the referendum that effectively scrapped half a century of British foreign and economic policy, the UK government is set to pull the trigger on the formal two-year exit process by the end of March.

At present the direction of travel is not fully clear, but Theresa May’s government has promised to set out a plan before triggering the EU’s Article 50 divorce procedure. Even though that blueprint may not be detailed, the UK will also have to draw up a comprehensive negotiating strategy. Mrs May will seek to avoid shocking the markets, while encouraging inward investment and keeping the Conservative party’s Brexiters on side. It could be difficult to pull off all three.

First half of the year: The fight for Raqqa

Isis militants parade in their Raqqa stronghold © AlamyAfter terrifying much of the world with their territorial gains in Syria and Iraq, the jihadis of Isis have been losing ground in both countries for almost two years. Recent months have been consumed by the battle for control of Mosul, Iraq’s second city, which the extremists captured in 2014.

Depending on the progress of that fight, the next push, possibly in early 2017, will be for Isis’s de facto capital of Raqqa, in Syria. The key challenge for Mr Trump’s US administration will be to forge a coalition of Syrian forces, both Kurds and Arabs, that is both able to prise Isis from its stronghold and govern effectively in the aftermath of the jihadis’ brutal rule.

April-May: French presidential elections

François Fillon of the conservative Republicans is currently the favourite to win the French presidential race © AFPAfter Brexit, the election of Donald Trump and the referendum No vote that ended Matteo Renzi’s tenure as Italian prime minister comes the high-stakes election of 2017. France’s political establishment will be seeking to resist the rise of Marine Le Pen, the National Front’s presidential candidate.

Although she could win the initial round of voting, Ms Le Pen is widely expected to be beaten into second place in the run-off as moderate voters rally against her. The favourite is François Fillon of the conservative Republicans.

But there are divisions among the mainstream parties and Ms Le Pen has tapped a rich seam of support among working-class voters. Moreover, the electoral shocks of 2016 show that no vote can be taken for granted. Should she somehow prevail, the EU would face potentially its biggest crisis to date, eclipsing even Brexit.

May: Iran’s presidential race

Hassan Rouhani's success or failure will have big consequences for the Middle East and beyond © EPAOver the past four years, despite initial expectations to the contrary, Hassan Rouhani has made his mark on Iran, notably through the country’s nuclear deal with the US and five other world powers.

But Mr Rouhani’s ability to shape the country’s agenda has come under constant attack from guardians of the old order, notably the Revolutionary Guard and members of the judiciary.

Now, with the nuclear deal under strain from the arrival of Mr Trump, who has sometimes vowed to scrap it, Mr Rouhani faces the challenge of re-election — a vote hardliners will seek to influence. Whether he survives or not, and whether Iran takes a more confrontational path, will have big consequences for the Middle East and beyond.

Throughout the year: Fed rate rises

The US Federal Reserve expectes to raise benchmark rates three times in 2017 © BloombergUS interest rates, along with the price of oil, are economic facts that can shake the world. For many people and places the key question of 2017 is how much higher they can go.

The US Federal Reserve, which in December raised benchmark rates for only the second time since the financial crisis, expects to do so three more times in 2017. Markets are not convinced that tightening will go so far. But in fact rates could rise still further.

By her own confession, Janet Yellen, Fed chair, has not yet factored in a possible Trump effect, which could push rates still higher if the president-elect wins congressional backing for the vast fiscal stimulus he seeks.

Bondholders and currencies such as the Mexican peso and Turkish lira have already taken a battering in the wake of Mr Trump’s election. They could be further tested if his policies in office increase the cost of money across the world.

First half of the year: Erdogan’s referendum

© EPAFor almost 15 years, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sought to expand his power in Turkey and in so doing has become the most influential leader since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the country’s modern founder.

In 2017, Mr Erdogan could finally achieve his central ambition: his formal ascension to the post of executive president, ruling the country as the undisputed head of both state and government.

After a bloody year that included both a coup attempt and a series of terrorist attacks, popular support for giving Mr Erdogan more power has grown. A referendum could take place in April or May. The president is likely to depict a Yes vote as empowering the will of the people. His opponents will argue that a No is the last chance to prevent a dictatorship.

Autumn: China’s Communist party congress

Xi Jinping, China's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong © ReutersNot for centuries has China been as powerful on the world stage as it is today. Not since Mao Zedong has the country had a leader as powerful as Xi Jinping.

Mr Xi will be looking to consolidate that power at the 19th party congress. He is almost certain to carry on as the ruling communist party’s general secretary until 2022, but the real question is what other appointments will be made, and whether they will extend his influence by elevating his allies.

If the congress brushes aside existing age and term limits, it may be a signal that Mr Xi himself will seek to run the party past his own tentative 2022 retirement date; a further break with the past for this most ambitious Chinese leader.

Meanwhile, China will have to navigate other major challenges, including the slowest growing economy for a quarter of a century and a possible rise in tensions with Mr Trump.

September-October: Germany’s election

Angela Merkel is under fire for her immigration policy as she steels herself for an election battle in 2017 © AFPAngela Merkel is now long established as the most important leader in Europe, if not the free world. But in 2017, as she seeks a fourth term in office, she faces a steep electoral challenge.

The maths of building a stable coalition is likely to be enormously complicated by the established parties’ problems. Popular frustration with Ms Merkel’s liberal line on immigration has combined with the long-term decline of her current coalition partner, the Social Democrats, and the uncertain prospects of her traditional allies, the Free Democrats.

The anti-euro, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany will be trying to take advantage. Ms Merkel will be seeking to ensure that her vital international role is not undermined by weakness at home.
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