”Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”. The last line of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire – uttered by its desperate heroine to the doctor taking her to a mental asylum – is an apt summary of the US financial sector in 2009.
As the crisis abated, banks took maximum advantage of the kindness of taxpayers and regulators to return to their core business: making money for shareholders and employees.
Ultra-low interest rates, dwindling competition and pent-up demand for their services sparked a renaissance in profits and share prices of the financial institutions that emerged from the turmoil in reasonable shape.
The question is whether history will repeat itself, or even just rhyme, this year. Here are my ten, utterly personal and non-exhaustive, predictions for the year ahead in US finance.
1) Strangers will be a lot less kind. With banks boasting about their new-found health, regulators will pull the plug on most of the measures they introduced to drag the financial industry back from the brink. A host of acronyms (Tarp, Talf, PPIP, TLGP) will be forgotten but not missed.