Nine ways to get ahead of 2014

The US sharemarket will finish higher after navigating the Fed taper, privacy fears will continue to hit the cloud industry and Airbnb will pull the IPO trigger.

There is a long-running Melbourne event at the end of every year called Yuletidy. Basically a bunch of business reporters and industry types get together for an end of year knees-up at which they give their predictions for the year ahead. Usually the focus is on guessing the health of the markets, likely mergers and acquisitions, sometimes politics and almost always the fate of your football team.

And while Times Square is a long way from Collins Street, I still believe that in a profession where we hold people accountable every day it is equally important that we, as journalists, also hold ourselves accountable for what we do and say.

So here are my predictions for the year – in writing – so we can see whether I need to change my name to Nostradamus in 2015.

My first prediction involves the resurgence of the US economy.

It was only five years ago that the Dow Jones Industrial Average was below 6700, General Motors and Chrysler were on their knees and Citigroup shares were trading at less than $US1!

Now, unemployment has continued to fall, giving Americans comfort to start spending again, the Dow Jones keeps smashing records above 10,000 points and even General Motors and Chrysler have paid back their debts to the US government and are set to turn profits.

I think the sharemarket will end the year higher after a contraction in the first half of the year when the Fed eases its bond buying program. The housing market will continue to strengthen on the back of low interest rates and business confidence will continue to increase.

I predict that the US energy industry will see the expansion of fracking across the country as politicians turn to gas as a key plank towards energy security and relieving dependence on foreign oil. That will come at the expense of environmental concerns regarding chemicals contaminating drinking water.

I also predict that privacy fears will continue to change the way we store data.

For a while now we have been relatively comfortable with having information such as credit card details, contacts and emails stored in a cloud.

Edward Snowden’s revelations about just who has access to your information and how easily it can be accessed gave the world reason to pause and ask themselves just how comfortable they would be if that information was shared.

The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, a think-tank in Washington, says that the Snowden bombshell could cost the American cloud industry between $US21.5 billion and $US35 billion between 2014 and 2016. It says American cloud companies’ share of the market outside the US would drop from 85 per cent to 55 per cent.

The French already have many cloud companies such as Cloudwatt and Numergy that provide a guarantee that your information won’t leave the country.

In July 2013, Germany stopped allowing the transfer of personal data to the US under new data protection laws and relations were further strained when it was discovered that the US had been listening in on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone calls.

What we will see in 2014 is more localised clouds and ways to store information. People will continue to demand protection of their private information.

I also predict that people’s viewing habits around the world will continue to change in 2014.

Gone are the days of traditional cable or nightly viewing around the idiot box. People are streaming their favourite shows on the train as they travel to work, sharing viral video clips on social media and online services are starting to invest in content. While YouTube has launched its own channels, Netflix is putting millions into developing original programming and generating buzz around their offerings such as Kevin Spacey’s House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.

Smart TVs will also start speaking to your laptop and allow you to watch online stations on the big screen.

I predict that Airbnb, the online accommodation site that allows people to rent out their homes for short or longs stays, will announce plans to go public in 2014. As of September last year, the company had over 500,000 listings in 33,000 cities and 192 countries after six years of operation. To be fair on this one it is well-known that Airbnb’s chief executive Brian Chesky has been having informal talks with bankers but speculators had felt that 2013 would be the year that Airbnb pulled the IPO trigger.

My final prediction is that mid-term US election races will see the Republicans continue to hold the House of Representatives due to US President Barack Obama sinking to an all-time low in his approval ratings. However, Republicans won’t manage to wrest control of the Senate with the American people still conscious of who was responsible for shutting down the government at the end of last year.

What do you think? Are there any other predictions to add to the list?

Mathew Murphy is a Walkley Award winning journalist based in New York.