The 2018 Fortune Crystal Ball: 59 Predictions for the Year Ahead
Good businesses keep up with the hottest trends. Great ones anticipate them. To help you discern what’s coming next, we’ve mined the forecasts, predictions, and projections from countless sources and polled Fortune’s in-house experts to bring you this look at the coming year. Our best bets? India will grow, cars will fly, and Bitcoin will crash—before it rebounds to new highs. Billionaires will blast off into space, and you’ll be eating meat with no animal in it (and you might even like it). Herewith, our predictions for the world of business in 2018, in our fifth annual edition of Fortune’s Crystal Ball.
Table of Contents
- Trump’s Triumph, and the EU’s Crisis
- Tell Us How You Feel About the Market, and We’ll Tell You Which Big Bank Is Your Soul Mate
- Planes, Trains, and Cars That Fly
- How the Supreme Court Will Rule
- Who to Watch, Who to Root for, What to Eat
- Tech’s Peril and Promise in 2018
- Terms to Know
- Who’s Going to Have a Good Year
- How We Did in 2017
1 Trump’s Triumph, and the EU’s Crisis
In the year ahead, India’s economy will climb, Britain’s delicate Brexit negotiations are likely to derail, and the U.S. will see a pivotal election.
Dems win the popular vote, but still can’t retake congress
Democrats will have the numbers in the 2018 midterm election, but we predict it won’t be enough for them to take the House. Urban clustering (and gerrymandering) favors Republicans so heavily that not even a presidential approval rating below 40% will be enough to put Nancy Pelosi back in the House Speaker’s seat. The Senate, meanwhile, is an even longer bet.
Brexit chaos brings down Theresa May
A snowballing sexual harassment scandal in Parliament and divisions over Brexit will coalesce into a force strong enough to bring down Theresa May’s government. The Labour Party’s Jeremy Corbyn will become U.K. Prime Minister and will try to complete Brexit negotiations with the EU (hoping to create a socialist paradise outside the “neoliberal” EU’s Single Market). The foreign exchange and bond markets will push back, hard.
Puerto Rico makes an energy comeback
The devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico leaves the field wide open for entrepreneurial experiments. Although the first bid to rebuild the island’s power grid was a debacle, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has said the old system could eventually be replaced with localized microgrids powered by solar and wind. A similar idea involves small modular nuclear reactors. By this time next year, Puerto Rico will be jump-starting a global renewable (or nuclear) revolution, with all the investment that entails.
EU antitrust suits keep rolling
The European Union will levy another heavy fine on Google for abuse of its dominance of the Android system. It will also reject the tech giant’s proposed fixes in its other ongoing case over rigging shopping results. Look for Bing to make inroads.
The EU weathers more attacks from within
The most likely outcome of Italy’s early 2018 election is a coalition between the centrist Democratic Party and Forza Italia. But the Eurosceptic Five Star Movement is also polling well. Its populist leader, 31-year-old Luigi Di Maio, wants to ditch many EU rules (or pull out entirely). Meanwhile, Catalonian separatist leader Carles Puigdemont will be convicted of rebellion by Spanish courts.
The world economy should grow modestly in 2018, but India will boom. After 7.1% growth in 2016 and a projected 6.7% uptick in 2017, the Indian economy is expected to balloon 7.4% next year, thanks in part to its demonetization reforms starting to bear fruit. (China, by contrast, is expected to grow 6.5%.) While economic risks linger and more reforms are needed, India will be the fastest-growing major economy the IMF tracks.
Tax Reform Passes …but GDP doesn’t hit 3%
President Trump and the GOP-led Congress are able to enact some corporate tax reforms, but find that tax cuts alone can’t quickly compensate for an aging population and an underskilled middle class. GDP grows by 2.5% for the year.
Home Prices (Barely) Rise
Zillow asked more than 100 economists and real estate experts where they thought home prices would wind up next year. The average answer? Up—but not by as much as in 2017.
2.25%: The federal funds rate at the end of 2018
Yuge economic growth remains elusive, but continued low unemployment puts enough upward pressure on wages and prices to prompt more rate hikes from the Federal Reserve, led by new chairman Jerome Powell. The Fed’s benchmark rate rises above 2% for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis.
$60: What a barrel of oil will cost next Christmas
Saudi political turmoil and the occasional disruptive summer storm will make the price of crude fluctuate plenty in 2018. But U.S. shale oil will keep the domestic supply flowing, putting an expiration date on any price spikes. No need to pawn the SUV just yet.
The U.S. IPO market jumps to life again
Last year was particularly weak for domestic IPO proceeds, at just $16.2 billion. That ticked up to a projected $39.7 billion this year, and—according to global law firm Baker McKenzie—will hit $70.9 billion in 2018. Investors will thank a robust stock market and tech companies for the boost.
- Long shot: Mark Zuckerberg will personally fact-check Facebook posts related to the 2018 election and learn Russian to sniff out any interference.
- Slam dunk: Russian President Vladimir Putin wins reelection in March.
2 Tell Us How You Feel About the Market, and We’ll Tell You Which Big Bank Is Your Soul Mate
» Do you think we’re overdue for a decline and that the phrase “ ‘tormented bulls’ best describes investor mentality”?
You’re a match for Goldman Sachs, projecting the S&P will end 2018 at 2,500.
» Do you think 2017’s global rally will be “restrained by ongoing global headwinds from high debt [and] slow labor recoveries”?
You’re besties with Wells Fargo, projecting a 2018 finale as high as 2,550.
» Do you see a “supportive economic backdrop, with benign recessionary risks”?
You should get to know Credit Suisse. It projects the S&P 500 will close out 2018 at 2,875. Read more about our stock market predictions here.
3 Planes, Trains, and Cars That Fly
Next year will see breakthroughs in zero-emissions vehicles that could help save the planet—and rockets that may one day help us escape it.
Autonomous cars start killing a lot of deer
So far, driverless cars have a (mostly) clean record cruising the orderly streets of Singapore, Arizona, and Ann Arbor. But as hundreds more hit the road next year, accidents are inevitable. Blind spots? Kangaroos, deer, and bicyclists.
Geopolitical intrigue stymies the hyperloop
As more companies set their sights on a Hyperloop transit system, they’re finding that several of the most promising spots—with the most space to build and the deepest pockets for budgeting—are in politically fraught sections of the Middle East. Engineering is easy compared with the complexities of regional geopolitics.
Tesla takes off
Uber is building a flying-taxi pilot program in L.A., and the hovercraft-maker Kitty Hawk, backed by Alphabet CEO Larry Page, is working on consumer transports. Our bet: In 2018, Tesla CEO and mobility futurist Elon Musk joins the sky-race with
an aeronautic venture of his own.
All-electric car sales near 1 million next year
Even if Washington is resistant to paving the way, global sales of all-electric cars will surge 70% in 2018, up from 580,000 this year, according to LMC Automotive.
Read more: How You’ll Be Traveling in 2018
- Long shot: The Trump administration, at Detroit’s urging, sinks $10 billion into zero-emissions car research.
- Slam dunk: Next year will be the warmest La Niña year on record.
4 How the Supreme Court Will Rule
Back to a full bench of nine, the Supreme Court justices are ready to rule on what Ruth Bader Ginsburg described as a “momentous” series of cases. Here, three predictions:
On unions: The justices will strike another blow to the power of unions by ruling, in a case known as Janus, that government workers may opt out of mandatory dues.
On partisan gerrymandering: The court’s key swing vote, Anthony Kennedy, has a flair for the dramatic. He will cast the deciding vote in a 5–4 ruling in Gill v. Whitford that will declare the serpentine redrawing of election districts for political purposes to be unconstitutional.
On privacy: Famously tech-resistant, the court has gradually come to recognize the privacy hazards of constant cell phone use. In Carpenter v. United States, it will require cops to get a warrant if they wish to determine a suspect’s location using phone records.
5 Who to Watch, Who to Root for, What to Eat
Sports, media, food, and culture are changing almost as fast as the ways we consume them.
The number of cord-cutters will hit 27 million
The ranks of cord-cutters will keep ballooning in 2018. By the end of this year about 22.2 million Americans will have ditched their cable TV providers, a 33.2% increase from 2016. Those losses will rise next year—and the next, and the next. But don’t shed a tear for the cable industry’s bottom line. As traditional TV subscriptions plummet, companies like Comcast and Verizon are seeing big growth in broadband.
Meatless meat is the next dairy-free milk
We’ll say it: Plants are hot. Milk alternatives—think almond and soy—have grown 45% by volume over the past five years to constitute 7% of the U.S. market. Expect meat aisles to transform next, as food and tech collide to produce alternatives that taste more, well, meaty. Right now, substitutes make up less than 1% of the processed-meat and seafood market—but their rate of growth should outpace the real stuff’s. Read more on the food trends to watch in 2018 here.
E-Sports get huge
Competitive gaming is going mainstream. Research firm Newzoo says e-sports, a $660 million industry, will soar 40% next year thanks to sponsorships, media rights, and, yes, ticket sales. Gamemaker Blizzard opened its first U.S. arena this fall.
The hot new show: My Brilliant Friend
HBO and Italian state broadcaster RAI are teaming up to produce the first installment of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels, the international bestselling series, for an as-yet-undisclosed release date in 2018.
- Super Bowl: The Patriots meet the Vikings in Super Bowl LII. Despite complaints from Papa John’s, the TV audience falls below 105 million, down 5%.
- World Series: The Dodgers square off against the Cleveland Indians, as L.A.’s investor-owners pray that their payroll—the highest in baseball, at $240 million—finally yields a trophy.
- NBA: The Cleveland Cavaliers face a surprise contender, the Houston Rockets, owned by steak-house and casino magnate Tilman Fertitta.
6 Tech’s Peril and Promise in 2018
Next year, incredible innovations, intrepid hackers, and executive infighting will leave their mark on Silicon Valley and beyond.
Facebook finally admits it’s a media company
If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a tech company. Right? Facebook insists it’s not a media business, despite evidence proving otherwise: fake news frustrations, editors as employees, $27 billion in annual advertising revenue. Next year, look for it to drop its resistance to the moniker, even though that could open it up to more regulation.
Apple breaks records
In November, supplies of the Apple’s $999 iPhone X sold out in hours (only to turn up on eBay for up to $8,000). In 2018, expect the X to help Apple finally beat its 2015 phone sales record.
The sheer number of health apps will cause you trauma
There’s a health app for just about everything these days. Robo-therapy? Diabetes assistance? Rare disease support groups? Check, check, check. Global mobile health venture funding reached a record $1.3 billion last year, according to Mercom. The field will continue to boom in 2018 (the total global market could exceed $100 billion by 2022), especially as the FDA moves to make it easier for mobile health apps to reach the market.
Travis Kalanick resurfaces
Americans love second acts. Kalanick, the epitome for good and ill of the American entrepreneur, will get his this year. He’s still on the Uber board of directors, and IPO preparations will include Kalanick, a master fundraiser and spinner of the Uber narrative.
Bitcoin crashes! Bitcoin hits all-time highs!
It’s been a banner year for the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, but mark our words: A crash is coming. Expect the price of one Bitcoin to tumble from its current heights above $6,500, to around $5,000. And then, after the fall, watch the price rebound to above $20,000 by the end of 2018. That’s our bet, but we wouldn’t put all our tokens on it. We’ll leave that to the institutional investors, like mutual funds and banks, who are taking cryptocurrency increasingly seriously.
Online dating pivots to video
As more media companies make the leap into video, dating apps are doing the same. In 2017, Hinge began allowing users to upload 30-second films, Bumble launched a video-chat feature, and even good old Match.com is adding a new “Story” option, with minute-long, live-action compilations. Millennials, already primed by Instagram and Snapchat to share their lives with strangers, will embrace the features as their new normal.
Amazon Keeps Eating the World
Hot on the heels of its acquisition of Whole Foods Market, Amazon will keep bolstering its physical presence to speed up delivery. That could mean buying more retail chains with big footprints like Kohl’s or Office Depot.
These Three Companies Will Make Your City Beg to Host Them
Amazon got plenty of positive press (and offers of tax breaks) when it said it was looking for another HQ. More companies will follow its lead in 2018. Looking at you, Facebook, Nvidia, and Alibaba.
Walmart snaps up more trendy companies
As Walmart revamps its website to counter Amazon, its acquisitions of small but hot online brands will continue. Expect to see deals for stalwarts like eyeglass maker Warby Parker and clothiers Everlane and Untuckit. The bids will help Walmart reach the higher-income customer it so covets.
- Long shot: Bullying concerns plague a hot new Postmates/Sarahah-hybrid app, where gig economy workers hand-deliver anonymous notes.
- Slam dunk: Another company with a staggering amount of your private information gets hacked.
7 Terms to Know
“Pine Island” & “Thwaites”: The two (relatively) fast-moving Antarctic glaciers are big enough that if melted, sea levels would rise roughly four feet over time, inundating many coastal cities. Both are shedding ice at accelerating rates.
“Carfentanil”: An elephant tranquilizer and synthetic opioid, often manufactured in labs in Asia, that has become an especially scary and deadly force in America’s opioid crisis.
“RNA”: Companies are testing new tech to silence gene expression and combat deadly genetic diseases by manipulating RNA, DNA’s biological partner, with new treatments due out as soon as 2018.
8 Who’s Going to Have a Good Year
In business as in all things, there are winners and losers. Here’s what will be hot (or not) in 2018.
- Lyft. The ride-sharing startup will continue to benefit from Uber’s scandals (and a focus on business travel), with market share speeding from 21% in early 2017 to more than 30% in 2018.
- Chinese billionaires. There are already more billionaires in China than there are in the U.S. by some counts. And, like the Chinese economy, those fortunes look set to continue their outsize growth.
- Lawyers. Someone has to benefit from the tide of lawsuits coming at opioid manufacturers—particularly if drugmakers pay out a multibillion-dollar settlement.
- Edibles for pets. Pet edibles are the next doggy Prozac. It’s just one market that will get smoking hot when legal recreational weed goes on sale in California in January.
- $500 yoga pants. Sure, malls are flailing, but the priciest among them (a.k.a. “Class A” malls, featuring racks of designer labels) still have strong growth prospects.
- Flower flavoring. Forget the pumpkin spice latte, Whole Foods says people will go nuts for flower flavors like rose and lavender
- The Fanny Pack. Call it normcore, or call it practical. But the fanny pack, already gracing the frames of several Kardashians, will hit more runways in 2018.
- Uber. Despite stabilization efforts at the company (including a huge cash infusion from SoftBank), Uber will keep losing ground to its smaller rivals.
- Warren Buffett’s net worth. Sure, the Oracle of Omaha’s net worth hit a hew high of $81.5 billion this fall, according to Bloomberg, but further growth next year will be thwarted by his tendency to give it away.
- Opioid distributors and manufacturers. They’ll be forced to rethink their practices under mounting litigation filed by cities, counties, and states, not to mention growing public pressure.
- Mom-and-pop weed companies. Quickening industry consolidation will nip many aspiring cannabiz moguls in the bud.
- $100 yoga pants. Lululemon and other stalwarts of the “athleisure” craze will lose market share as people who actually exercise realize there’s no point in working out in expensive clothes.
- Food delivery startups. The day of reckoning is finally nigh for heavily VC-subsidized food delivery startups. (Just ask Blue Apron investors.)
- Podcasts. The airwaves have reached the saturation point for three guys and a Patreon account. A shakeout is coming.
9 How We Did in 2017
On target: We predicted correctly that President Trump would put his stamp on the business world by rolling back clean power regulations and rescinding rules that let undocumented “dreamers” work legally in the U.S. We foresaw that steady economic growth would prompt the Fed to hike interest rates three times in 12 months. And in entertainment, we predicted an Oscar for a streaming service (Amazon’s Manchester by the Sea won two) and a decline in Super Bowl TV ratings.
In the ballpark: We predicted major upgrades for the new iPhone, including its OLED screen, in tandem with a big sales rebound. We also warned that VR technology would struggle to gain traction with consumers. (Our apologies if you’re reading this through an Oculus headset.)
Off the mark: We predicted that Trumpian policy uncertainty and sky-high share valuations would end the long bull market in stocks. We were right about the uncertainty and valuations, but wrong about investors’ moods: The S&P 500 is up 18% since then. Meanwhile, if you’d like to make a French person laugh, just utter these three words: “President Alain Juppé.”
Crystal Ball Contributors: Ryan Bradley, Clay Dillow, Erika Fry, Leigh Gallagher, Robert Hackett, Matt Heimer, Tom Huddleston Jr., Beth Kowitt, Adam Lashinsky, Michal Lev-Ram, Sy Mukherjee, Andrew Nusca, Brian O’Keefe, Aaron Pressman, Jeff John Roberts, Geoffrey Smith, Anne VanderMey, Phil Wahba, Valentina Zarya, Claire Zillman
A version of this article appears in the Dec. 1, 2017 issue of Fortune. We’ve included affiliate links in this article. Click here to learn what those are.