The Year Ahead 2019 according to The Nikkei Asian

The Year Ahead 2019 according to The Nikkei Asian

The experts from the Japanese daily Nikkei Asian made a forecast for 2019. The most important trends and events in politics, economics and technology, revealed by the Japanese edition, are presented by the Financial Times in the article The Year Ahead 2019.

Alibaba after Jack Ma

The mood may not be entirely festive when Alibaba Group Holding celebrates its 20th birthday on September 10. That same day, founder Jack Ma Yun will step down as chairman of the ecommerce conglomerate. “A big question is whether and how Alibaba will continue without Jack Ma,” Joseph P.H. Fan, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told the Nikkei Asian Review. Alibaba became a household name under Mr Ma, thanks in no small part to Singles Day, the November 11 shopping event the company invented in 2009. It now surpasses the Thanksgiving shopping season in the US in terms of sales. Mr Ma, who will retire as a board member in 2020, will be replaced as chairman by chief executive Daniel Zhang Yong. Mr Ma says he has been preparing his successor by making himself scarce at the company and giving Mr Zhang complete authority to decide on investments up to Rmb20bn ($2.89bn). Nevertheless Mr Fan has his doubts. “No one can replace Jack Ma in terms of his vision and his public image, which wins attention and perhaps trust from stakeholders.”

The 5G revolution begins

Ordinary consumers — or at least early adopters — will finally be able to experience 5G technology in 2019, allowing them to take advantage of broadband-like speeds on smartphones and other mobile devices. The telecoms industry is promoting 5G as a huge step forward, eventually forming the basis of futuristic capabilities such as holographic calls, mobile AI computing, autonomous driving and even remote surgery. In the nearer term, first-wave users will be able to experience high-definition video broadcasts of live events such as concerts or sports events. Samsung Electronics, Huawei Technologies and possibly Apple are expected to introduce products using the new technology in 2019, but industry executives say they don’t expect 5G services to reach critical mass right away. “We expect to see a lot of 5G-ready devices in the market in 2019,” said Joe Chen, president of mobile chipmaker MediaTek. “However the massive adoption of 5G technology will not become reality before 2020.”

A turbulent year for markets?

The end of 2018 was a turbulent one for markets in Asia and much of the world, as investors fretted about US interest rate rises, China’s economic slowdown and the trade war between Washington and Beijing. None of those worries look like they are going away in 2019, which could spell a bumpy ride for Asian markets. The US Federal Reserve is forecast to raise interest rates twice in 2019, a move that is expected to spark capital outflows from emerging economies. This could “affect Asia’s economy negatively,” says Yoshinori Shigemi, a global market strategist for JPMorgan Funds. On the China front, the OECD has cut its growth forecast to 6.3 per cent for 2019, and predicts a slowdown to a 30-year low of 6 per cent in 2020. A major reason for its weaker outlook is the trade dispute with Washington. Along with the trade war, Brexit and other political issues like India’s election will be major themes to look out for. “With so much uncertainty, it will be difficult for investors to move assets, especially during the first half of 2019,” said Kazuharu Konishi, chief fund manager at Mitsubishi UFJ Kokusai Asset Management.

Bent out of shape

Smartphone screens have grown larger and larger over the years, making it easier to watch a video but harder to fit them in a jeans pocket or small purse. A possible solution will arrive in 2019: foldable screens. The new technology is expected to inject some needed excitement into the smartphone market, which has been slowing as makers struggle to come up with innovative features. Samsung Electronics and China’s Huawei Technologies — the world’s number one and number two smartphone makers by shipments — plan to launch their first foldable handsets in 2019. “A new generation of technology breakthroughs is opening the door to a phase we have never seen before,” Samsung chief executive Koh Dong-jin said November 8. Apple hasn’t announced any plans for a foldable smartphone, but analysts say it could follow suit in the coming years.

Trump-Kim II?

Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un are set to meet again in 2019, but it appears unlikely that this second summit will yield any more progress than their historic first meeting in Singapore last June. The problem is that Washington and Pyongyang remain at odds over how to denuclearise the Korean peninsula. The US has repeatedly said it will not loosen sanctions on North Korea until the country takes concrete steps toward denuclearisation. North Korea counters that the US should reward it for the steps it has taken so far — namely destroying a nuclear test site and a missile engine test site. “President Trump says that he has good relations with Chairman Kim Jong Un, but it is nothing more than diplomatic rhetoric. Washington’s trust in North Korea is at the bottom,” said Choi Kang, vice-president of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies. “Pyongyang is also stepping up its criticism of the US, saying it will take denuclearisation actions only when sanctions are lifted.”

The rise of Generation Z

A big shift is coming. In 2019, Generation Z — people born in or after 2001 — will overtake millennials as the most populous generation in the world, according to a data analysis by Bloomberg. Gen Z will represent 32 per cent of the total population, while millennials — those born between 1980 and 2000 — will account for 31.5 per cent. The rise will come mainly from countries with rapid population growth, like India, which will be home to more than 470m members of Gen Z — 51 per cent more than in China. Sub-Saharan Africa will also see a Gen Z surge. Millennials will continue to be the most dominant group in big economies like China, the US, Japan and Germany. Growing up with smartphones and social media, Gen Z as a whole is a tech-savvy cohort whose rapid rise — along with the increasingly digital nature of the economy — is expected to transform the employment landscape. And as the next consumer juggernaut, Gen Z can look forward to being aggressively courted by marketers.

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