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What’s new in 2021?

Very little, let’s hope, now that a year chockablock with ugly surprises—a list starting with the coronavirus pandemic—passes behind us. The next 12 months promise a chance at a global recovery thanks to vaccines now being manufactured and distributed around the world. But it’s too early to let our guard down: The path forward for investors, policymakers, and everyone else is lined with pitfalls. That’s just counting what we can predict.

Forecasting the macroeconomic environment is not simple, but we can say that two things will affect global production above all else: The first is how quickly and where the pandemic is contained, and the second is how well policymakers around the world are able to repair the economic damage left in its wake. The latter is especially dependent on how American policymakers steer the world’s largest economy—its attempts at recovery will cascade across the rest of the globe, with consequences for every market.