Top 7 Business Predictions for 2012

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Banks Will Want to Play Games. Philip Blank of Javelin Strategy & Research tells Reuters he predicts that that banks, unable or unwilling to offer better interest rates, will try to woo and hold customers in 2012 by repackaging certain of their traditional services as games. Some banks already, through a company called SaveUp, offer a sweepstakes-type of game in which depositors earn the right to play for prizes ( everything from coffee pots and gift cards on up to a $2 million grand prize) when they increase their savings or reduce their debt. He says customers can expect banks to other Facebook-promoted games as well as random rewards.

Gold & Silver. Forecasters predict higher prices for precious metals—but opinion differs about how high. Member of the Professional Numismatists Guild were asked what they expect prices to do in the next three months and for 2012 overall. Predictions for where gold would end the first quarter ranged from $1,475 an ounce to $2,155, with a mean average of $1,976.22. The year-end predictions were for $1,450 to $2,575. As for silver, first-quarter predictions ranged from a low of $24.35 to a high of $57.50 the ounce (mean average $34.04); with a year-end price predicted to be from $23 to $130 (mean average $48.73). Gold ended the year at $1,564.

Stocks. Prognosticators at Smart Money say that while predicting the market is like predicting the weather, certain trends seem certain to continue: "More of the world will get wired, eat more protein, and drive more cars. And companies with global reach will have a growing edge." The stocks forecast to benefit from those trends include these three:

Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan produces compounds essential to fertilizer. With world population forecast to grow by 44 percent through 2100, 3 billion more mouths will need to be fed, prompting farmers to use more fertilizer to increase the productivity of land.

AT&T's wireless revenue, says Smart Money, represented half of its $94 billion in revenue in the first three quarters of 2011, up from about a third in early 2007. Though its old-fashioned land-line business is on the wane, it's far from dead, since, as one investment fund manager points out, "Every Wi-Fi in the world is connected to a fixed-line network somewhere."

A zillion Chinese driving (eventually) a zillion cars: Whence cometh the gas? Almost certainly from China National Offshore Oil Corp., that nation's largest producer of crude oil and natural gas. Thanks to an advantageous deal struck between CNOOC and foreign oil companies exploring off China's coast, CNOOC gets a share of any oil discovered but suffers no cost if they fail.

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