Surprise No. 13: Africa becomes a new hotbed of turmoil and South Africa precipitates an emerging debt crisis.
Politics and economics form a potentially toxic cocktail.
Africa triggers an emerging-market crisis and becomes a flashpoint of geopolitical risk and political turmoil as the region's untapped oil wealth is recognized.
Not long ago, South Africa was meant to be the "S" in the BRICS, alongside fast-growing Brazil, Russia, India and China. The rand, however, is in steep decline, and the nation has growing budget and trade deficits and slowing growth, so it can hardly claim membership in that club right now.At some point in 2014, the ratings agencies will downgrade South Africa, foreign money will flee, and the country will be in a full-blown financial crisis that will trigger a wider selloff in the emerging markets and could highlight problems at emerging-market central banks (which are already suffering from slowing economic growth, an acceleration in inflation, etc.). Potentially changing regimes due to national elections in Brazil, India, Indonesia and Turkey cause those countries to join South Africa in the emerging markets' bumpy ride, which is further impacted by U.S. dollar strength caused by the Fed's tapering. If the crisis intensifies and expands beyond South Africa, a contagion into the developed banks could raise additional concerns and pull down money center bank shares. Strategy: Short iShares MSCI South Africa ETF (EZA), iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM) and Financial Select Sector SPDR (XLF).