The End of Craigslist and Other Big Predictions for 2012

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- Educators at the University of Alabama have peered into their crystal balls and come back with some interesting predictions for 2012 -- from what will happen in the presidential race to the strength of Occupy Wall Street.

The school has trawled its teacher ranks for predictions every year going back to 1981, but their predictions haven't always been right.
Educators at the University of Alabama make predictions every year, and this year their look ahead includes everything from the presidential race to Occupy.

In 2011, the professors said baby boomers would take to the streets to protest changes in Social Security -- but in an otherwise remarkable year for protests, that one didn't happen. They also said a mosquito-borne infectious virus would sweep the U.S., which also didn't happen. (As baseball legend Casey Stengel once said, "Never make predictions, especially about the future.") But it's a new year and the professors are back for more. Plus, some predictions do come true.

What are some of their more topical and unique predictions? Here's a snapshot:

Prediction: A female running mate may determine election. All eyes are on the Republican primaries right now as the GOP candidates battle for a chance to run against Obama, but one professor says the vice presidential race is the one to watch this year -- and may determine the outcome of the election.

"On the Republican side, none of the current candidates is likely to beat Obama, despite his perceived weakness," says Dr. Janis Edwards, associate professor of communication studies at the university. "The partner on the ticket could be very meaningful for Republican momentum, especially if there is great appeal to women voters." Edwards says there is an outside chance Vice President Joe Biden could assume the role of secretary of state, opening up the vice presidential spot on the Democratis side (to the current, double-x-chromosome-having person currently heading the Department of State).

Prediction: "Doomsday" groups to grow. Much has been made of the ancient Mayan prediction that the world will end Dec. 31. That likely won't happen (knock on wood), but the resulting hoopla will trigger some obligatory hysteria around the world and lead to the growth of apocalyptic groups this year, much like the Y2K scare of 1999.

"We're going to see a lot of doomsday groups grow online," says Dr. Rosanna Guadagno, assistant professor of psychology at the university. "If one of them gets big enough, we'll see hysteria spreading over the Internet. Then we'll see the kind of crazy things some people were doing on New Year's Eve in 1999."

Prediction: So long, Craigslist. Dr. Craig E. Armstrong, a professor of management, expects a smartphone app to emerge that will displace Craigslist. Armstrong says the app will "enable transactions with less traction and allow buyers and sellers to create reputations."

Prediction: Occupy Wall Street will rebound in a big way. Popular in some circles and loathed in others, the Occupy Wall Street movement will be back after a much-needed winter breather. Dr. Gary Hoover, an economics professor, says the dormant protest movement will rise again.

"I predict that we have not heard the last of the Occupy movement," he says. "In fact, I think they will be heard again and re-emerge on the political and economic landscape more determined and forceful than ever."

But journalism professor Dr. Matthew D. Bunker predicts that a physical presence for Occupy Wall Street will be defeated in the courts, as judges "side with local officials who try to regulate tents and 24-hour campsites for reasons of public health and safety."

Prediction: Interest rates will rise. Bank savers should love this one if it pans out. Mortgage borrowers? Not so much.

Dr. Benton Gup, a professor of finance, predicts that rates will rise -- but says "let's not make the same mistakes that led to the failure and consolidation of thousands of financial institutions in the 1980s. Simply stated, when market rates of interest were low in the 1970s, lenders borrowed short-term funds at low rates and made long-term, fixed-rate mortgage loans at slightly higher rates."

Gup says mortgage lenders should not make long-term, fixed-rate loans unless they can hedge their interest rate risk or match the maturity of their assets and liabilities. Therefore, you can expect interest rates to go up, but in a more constrained lending environment.

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