For much of 2018, Predicting the events of the next 24 hours—never mind a full 365 days—has felt impossible. Some days have contained a week’s worth of headlines; some months have contained more changes to the worlds of business and politics than an entire calendar of years past. Don’t expect 2019 to be any different. But do understand that while the world is changing in fundamental ways, some old lessons still hold true. Just tune out the noise. Here, Fortune’s in-house experts guide you through the biggest disruptions, innovations, and opportunities that are likely to present themselves next year.
Table of Contents
1. The Art of the (Reluctant) Deal
Many of the global crises that emerged in the past two years will be partially solved by pragmatism, as the real risk of economic catastrophe serves as a wake-up call.
Congress Starts Legislating Again
A House freed from the demands of the Freedom Caucus starts voting on some long-overdue common-ground legislation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—who for the past two years has focused his efforts on packing federal courts with conservative judges—works with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on spending, a farm bill, immigration reform, and an infrastructure bill that President Trump has long wanted to see on his desk. Expect a nominal concession from Pelosi on building “the wall” on the Mexican border to grease the wheels.
Brexit Gets Messier
Despite two years of negotiations, March’s Brexit deadline will approach with no comprehensive deal in sight. In a game of brinkmanship, with the stability of global financial markets at stake, both sides concede to a bare-bones deal that will cover only the most basic issues at stake, such as the border with Northern Ireland and the right to work for EU nationals living in the U.K. Despite a revolt from the right-most fringes of her party, Theresa May will win a parliamentary vote with help from the Labour Party. Any hopes for a second referendum are dashed.
MBS Rides It Out
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman—facing international pressure over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi—will have his wings clipped by his father, King Salman, but will retain his position in the line of succession. His portfolio will be cut—he’ll have to take a back seat on foreign relations and defense until the Khashoggi heat dies down—and he’ll instead focus on domestic policy and economic matters.
Obamacare Plans Turn a Profit
Nearly 12 million Americans signed up for individual health plans through Obamacare last year, despite the GOP’s repeal of its requirement that everyone carry insurance. Insurers like Centene have been making big money off the health law as the overall market stabilizes, political bedlam aside. The company is offering ACA coverage in 20 states in 2019; insurance giant Cigna is expanding its Obamacare footprint; and newer firms like Oscar Health are doubling down on coverage offerings as they smell continued profit opportunity in the air.
The hottest assets in 2019 will be sustainably invested ones. The charge, led by Black-Rock’s Larry Fink and purpose-minded millennials, for socially responsible companies and a financial system imbued with long-termism will continue to pick up speed. The result will be 40% of professionally managed assets being invested with consideration of ESG (environmental, social, and governance) factors by the end of next year, up from 26% at the start of 2018.
Rome Comes Begging
2.3 trillion euros and rising—spirals out of control at the first whiff of a global downturn. The fall of the Italian economic system is even more unthinkable to the Eurogroup than Greece’s, and it agrees to a bailout package after Italy restructures its debt.
Trade War Gets Worse, Then Gets Better
Trade tensions between China and the U.S. continue to escalate, slowing U.S. GDP growth to 2.75% for the year. Hard-hit small businesses and farmers and the looming 2020 U.S. presidential election bring the two sides to the negotiating table, and a compromise is struck. Trump will claim a political victory in solving a problem of his own creation.
Land of Opportunity
Opportunity Zone investing—called “the most unbelievable tax break ever”—allows wealthy individuals or investment firms to park their money in any of the 8,700 underserved communities designated as “opportunity zones” for a chance to erase tax obligations. The most alluring cities for investment in 2019 will include Detroit, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. Look to these areas for higher home prices, job creation, and business launches in the next several years.
Women Take on Trump
The Women’s Wave will continue, and more women than men will run for the Democratic nomination for President. Expect Senators Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Kirsten Gillibrand to be in the mix, as well as Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. An outside run from former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates is in the offing, but Oprah Winfrey will decline.
Price of a barrel of oil at the end of 2019:
Economic growth may slow, but it will be strong enough to push oil prices higher than current levels. That will be a relief for many U.S. shale producers, whose break-even costs can be as high as $60 a barrel.
S&P 500 at the end of 2019:
Trade tensions and fears of inflation will prompt multiple freak-outs, followed by rallies that leave U.S. stock indexes slightly lower than they stand today. See our Investor’s Guide for more.
Federal funds rate: Even as economic growth cools, the Federal Reserve will raise its benchmark interest rate three times in the next 12 months, to a level last seen in early 2008.
Growth in U.S. home prices:
Homeowners got accustomed to appreciation of 5% to 7% a year for much of this decade. But look for average prices to get flatter than a sand dollar in 2019. The culprits: mortgage costs and affordability.
2. Beantown Booms, and Apple Wins an Emmy
Who and what we’ll be watching in 2019.
Boston in the Finals
The stars will align for Boston as its NFL, NBA, and MLB teams each make their respective finals. The New England Patriots will meet the Vikings in Super Bowl LIII. (We made the same prediction last year, but we’re sure of it this time.) The red-hot Red Sox will carry their World Series–winning ways into next season, thanks to their talented young roster. They’ll face the Milwaukee Brewers who are the surprise package of the National League. With LeBron James out of the East, the Boston Celtics finally have a route to the NBA Finals, but they’ll have to face a Golden State Warriors team who are stronger than they’ve ever been.
A New Front in the Streaming Wars
We’re already in the Golden Age of Television. What comes next? The Platinum Age? In 2019, TV lovers will finally get the added benefit of Apple’s beneficence, as the iPhone maker’s well-funded video service arrives (for free to Apple device owners, according to the latest rumors). And this won’t bomb like Apple’s last attempt at content, “Battle of the Apps.” Not with Reese Witherspoon, Steven Spielberg, Damien Chazelle, and a bevy of other Hollywood talent on board. But don’t expect any Game of Thrones–level gore. It’s strictly PG-13 fare at the House that Jobs built.
E-sport Viewership Goes Prime Time But Won’t Beat Out Cricket
A record-breaking 60 million people watched the League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational finals match this year. In 2019, expect the League of Legends World Championship to garner over 100 million viewers. In soccer, the popularity and success of the U.S. women’s national team will push global Women’s World Cup viewership over 800 million. But both will pale in comparison to the Cricket World Cup, which, while not a…