Frisby’s forecasts – the year-end review: I didn’t see that coming

Dominic Frisby looks back to his forecasts for 2020 and finds that predicting the future is really rather difficult, and that the one thing an investor needs is flexibility.

Army lorries on Westminster bridge
2020 was full of nasty surprises
(Image credit: © Leon Neal/Getty Images)

It’s my last Money Morning of the year, so, as is custom – perhaps not quite tradition yet – we go back to our first Money Morning of the year and review our predictions.

Even though this is just a game, I have to say I’ve been dreading the day when I would have to write today’s Money Morning for some six months now, because in January 2020, I don’t believe the word Covid had ever passed my lips.

It’s one thing to say I didn’t see it coming, but I’d never even heard of it to have even been able to see it coming. When it did come, I thought it would be another SARS and would pass, so I got that wrong too. So this will no doubt be my worst ever result.

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What does 2020 prove? You need to be flexible

My main call from February when I saw what was going on was: get out of government money, own gold and bitcoin. It proved right; I’ve lost count of how many times I beat that particular drum, but this has been a terrific year for both, especially bitcoin. So even although my predictions are likely to have been woeful – I haven’t actually gone through them yet, so we’ll enjoy this process of revelation together – I’ve had a good year, investment-wise. I think a lot of people have. We have the money printers to thank for that.

Circumstances change as time passes and, so, your investment theses have to as well. Hence this prediction exercise is more for entertainment than investment purposes. But it’s also a useful marker. You can go back at the end of the year and see just how much the landscape – in particular the psychological one – has changed. A quick reminder of the scoring system. I get two points for an exact hit (rare); one point for roughly right; nothing for a miss; and minus one for a howling error.

  • Prediction one was for a political change in trend: that the sceptical view of climate change “gains greater prominence, spreads into the mainstream and is, thus, more legitimised”. I’m not sure why I put that first. It’s not exactly an investment theme. No doubt, the whole argument has became more pronounced thanks to Extinction Rebellion and their antics, even if it now plays second fiddle to Covid, and we have the Tories’ Green Deal, or whatever they’re trying to call it, to eliminate fossil fuel use by 2030 (too soon in my view), so as a result the sceptical view has also gained greater prominence. But it has not really gained greater legitimacy and so I’m giving myself 0.
  • Prediction two was for gold, which began the year at $1,525 an ounce. Its bull market would continue, we said, and it has. However, I didn’t expect new highs (above $1,920), so just the one point.
  • Prediction three was that interest rates would not change by anything significant. The base rate was slashed from 0.75% to 0.1% in reaction to Covid. You could say that a 0.65 percentage point change is not abnormal. And compared to the pre-financial crisis era it isn’t. But you could also say that the UK’s key interest rate fell by more than 85% to all-time lows. So that’s 0 points.
  • Prediction four was for the US dollar. A gentle decline we said. “Currently at 96, the US dollar index goes into the low 90s (perhaps even the high 80s).” That’s exactly what it did. Ooh, a bullseye. Two points.
  • Prediction five was that the pound “finds some strength”. Specifically, it gets back into the $1.40s and €1.20s. We briefly went above €1.20 in February, and $1.36 was the high against the dollar. I’m tempted to give myself a point – but I don’t really deserve it. So zero.

Oil, house prices and taxes

  • Prediction six was for oil to go up. It didn’t. It went down. The only thing that saves me from minus one is that it’s been in a bull market since March.
  • Prediction seven was for the UK housing market to be flat. Wrong. House prices fell and then they rose. Zero points.
  • Prediction eight was that taxes, beyond a little tinkering, won’t change. They haven’t. But I thought it would be Sajid Javid – remember him? – that wouldn’t change them. One point.
  • Prediction nine. The FTSE 100 breaks out to new highs, we said. Wrong we were. That’s a minus one.
  • Prediction ten was that the S&P 500 would break out to new highs. It would go above 3,600 we said, and indeed it has. However, we didn’t foresee March’s volatility. So just the one point.
  • The Brucey bonus sports prediction was that Liverpool win the league, while Norwich, Aston Villa and Bournemouth go down. Three out of the four right. One point.

So there we are. A woeful five points. This year shows, more than ever, what a mug’s game making predictions is. And guess what? I’ll be back with next year’s predictions in my next Money Morning. Have a very happy Christmas, what’s left of it.

Daylight Robbery – How Tax Shaped The Past And Will Change The Future is now out in paperback at Amazon and all good bookstores with the audiobook, read by Dominic, on Audible and elsewhere.

Dominic Frisby

Dominic Frisby (“mercurially witty” – the Spectator) is as far as we know the world’s only financial writer and comedian. He is the author of the popular newsletter the Flying Frisby and is MoneyWeek’s main commentator on gold, commodities, currencies and cryptocurrencies. He has also taken several of his shows to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

His books are Daylight Robbery - How Tax Changed our Past and Will Shape our Future; Bitcoin: the Future of Money? and Life After the State - Why We Don't Need Government

Dominic was educated at St Paul's School, Manchester University and the Webber-Douglas Academy Of Dramatic Art. You can follow him on X @dominicfrisby