Here's a preview of four likely developments in 2012. (We'll leave the larger, eschatological analyses to others, and focus on the economic / political.)
More than likely, the euro will still be in existence at the end of 2012. Europe's fortunate economies, primarily Germany and France, will find a way, aided by the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, to muddle through regarding the costs associated with austerity plans for Italy and Greece.
They'll likely elongate the repayment plan for debt, to buy time, hoping that stronger growth in 2013 and beyond will make it easier for debt-laden countries to service and pay-down their debts.
Russia's power and influence on the international stage will continue to increase. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, running for the presidency for a second time, will face a stronger opposition in 2012, but that will not blot-out Russia's arc to greater influence, largely stemming from its improving and diversifying economy. (Russia's 2010 GDP: $1.65 trillion.)
The days of American unilateralism ended with the Bush '43' Presidency, and look for Putin et al to continue to press for foreign policy solutions that all of the world's major powers view as in their interest, and against foreign policy interests based solely on U.S. interests.
China will finally decide to let its currency, the yuan, appreciate faster. A combination of too-high domestic inflation and international pressure will convince the rapid-growing economic powerhouse to adopt a more market-based approach to currency valuation.
Don't expect a miracle, but look for the yuan, presently valued at about 6.3 yuan to the U.S. dollar, to appreciate more than 4.7 percent gain it registered in 2011. The larger appreciation will help address one, major imbalance in the global economy.
The U.S. economic recovery will exceed economists'/analysts' forecasts. The world's largest economy could grow at a 2.8 percent rate, or faster, provided Europe's credit markets don't collapse.
All the signs are there for an acceleration in U.S. GDP growth in 2012 -- lower jobless claims, an expanding manufacturing sector, adequate auto sales, cash-flush corporations, modest pent-up consumer demand, a housing sector that appears to be bottoming, and rising consumer confidence.
Now, if job growth can accelerate modestly in the next 12 months, 2012 could end up being a refreshingly good year for the U.S. in terms of earnings growth, stock prices, and employment.
And a Happy New Year - 2012 - to all.