Last week, financial guru Bill Spetrino predicted that the U.S. stock market would quadruple, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average reaching 60000.
A new book -- Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think -- proclaims that people's lives will keep on improving, thanks to science breakthroughs, human rights progress, diminishing warfare and other boons.
Meanwhile, contrary experts foresee misery. Examples:
"Financial Armageddon" is coming because of out-of-control national debts in America and Europe, investment guru Jim Rogers said in a televised interview. He said the $16 trillion U.S. debt, equaling $50,000 for every American, might undermine the economy.
Three other international specialists -- State Department adviser Kent Moors, investment strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald and pathologist Chris Martenson -- warned the United Nations and Britain's Parliament that calamity may ensue from unsustainable debt plus eventual shortages of fuel, food and water. A video narrated by John Daly outlines their alarm.
An in-depth analysis in the Gazette said the world's oil supply may be approaching exhaustion, threatening modern life for 7 billion people operating more than 1 billion vehicles.
Economist Marc Faber, author of the "Gloom, Boom and Doom Report," and Robert Wiedemer, author of Aftershock, both said last year that disaster is coming. "The data is clear: 50 percent unemployment, a 90 percent stock market drop and 100 percent annual inflation... starting in 2012," Wiedemer declared. Since then, the stock market has soared like a rocket.
What can average folks, non-experts, make of all these contradictory forecasts? Employ cautious judgment, we suggest. Hope for the best, while staying informed and watching for danger signs.
Regarding fuel, we hope the Marcellus Shale gas boom that promises to enrich West Virginia will offset the relentless decline of Appalachian Basin coal. In coming decades, many cars will run on electricity, natural gas or synthetic gas, we assume, so a decline of petroleum will be less damaging.
Trying to foresee economic trends is extremely difficult -- especially when experts predict opposite scenarios. The best forecast may lie in a cartoon we recall, a spoof on crackpots who carry signs proclaiming doomsday. It showed a shaggy-looking man holding a sign saying: "Unfortunately, the world will drag on."