This article has been adapted from our sister site across the pond, Fool U.K.
The entire point of author Nassim Taleb's ironically now ubiquitous "Black Swan" metaphor was that nobody in the white swan-strewn Old World foresaw the black version of the bird until they encountered Australia, where millions of black swans were waddling about their business.
Black swans were truly unpredictable, because nobody was even looking for them.
It's therefore a bit self-defeating of Saxo Bank to claim its annual "Outrageous Predictions" is a "Black Swan exercise." By definition they're not unpredictable!
Semantics aside, Saxo Bank's musings do give an interesting heads-up on various potential flashpoints to watch over the next 12 months. And three of last year's 10 wacky predictions actually came true.
Here's what Saxo Banks suggests we should look out for in 2011, and some thoughts on the how outrageous each prediction really is.
1. U.S. Congress blocks Bernanke's QE3
"Congress blocks the Fed's authority to expand its balance sheet, and sets up an eventual challenge of the Fed's dual employment/inflation mandate."
Possible, but if the sell-off in U.S. Treasuries in recent weeks does imply that growth will finally kick in during 2011 then rather than being challenged, Bernanke might be recognized as a hero.
"In interviews, Apple's Steve Jobs has explained that Apple spoke with Facebook about partnership opportunities, but that the talks ultimately produced nothing. Facebook was after 'onerous terms that we could not agree to,' according to the executive."
Apple has the cash to buy Facebook outright, going on the social network's current estimated valuation of around the $40 billion mark. But as a private company, it's not for sale. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has mooted 2012 for public flotation.
3. U.S. Dollar Index tops 100
"With the Chinese industrial base growing slowly this puts global risk appetite in a tailspin, and with the Japanese economy struggling and the Eurozone in disarray, the U.S. dollar starts to look more appealing."
Saxo Bank sees the U.S. dollar index rising 25% by the autumn. This doesn't seem at all outrageous to me, given how currencies swing in and out of favor.
4. U.S. 30-year Treasury yield slides to 3%
"The dollar devaluation policy, with its roots in the 'currency wars' of 2010, forces emerging markets to use more of their spare dollars on Treasuries. The Federal Reserve's quantitative easing exploits fail apart from easing the balance sheet woes of American banks."
Throw in more EU peripheral bond flare-ups, and this prediction also seems possible -- and not inconsistent with the last point. The U.S. remains the safe-haven trade.
5. Aussie-Sterling dives 25%
"China steps harder and harder on the brakes to stop inflation from getting out of control. Combined with the Australian property market it looks like a bubble ready to burst, and the case is for a decline of 25% in AUDGBP."
Certainly the Australian growth story is in the price when it comes to the Aussie dollar, so any disappointment could certainly see it weaken. This would be good news for Brits looking to retire among the black swans.
6. Crude oil gushes before correcting by one-third
"Crude succumbs to a violent one-third correction lower later in the year."
Saxo Bank sees oil surpassing the $100 mark before the correction. It all depends on U.S. growth, really. Green technology could be a winner.
7. Natural gas surges 50%
"Increased industrial demand, historical cheapness relative to crude and coal, forward curve flattening, and action on proposals to export more U.S. natural gas reserves all combine to make passive investments in gas more profitable."
There's too much natural gas about, thanks to the global downturn, but that won't last forever -- especially if the Arctic weather persists in Europe. That said, a 50% move in natural gas prices would be a once-in-a-quarter-century event.
8. Gold powers to $1,800 as currency wars escalate
"The U.S. trade deficit widens and pressure piles on China and as investors flee to metals, gold shoots up to $1,800 an ounce."
Entirely possible. The very potential of gold is that contrary to gold bugs' protestations, it doesn't matter where the price is -- compared with say, oil, which would plunge the world into a depression if it soared by another 50%.
9. S&P 500
"The Fed continues to pump liquidity into the system in 2011. Investors realize the only strategy worth following is to buy the dips, but the tactic actually works for the Fed even though it's a house of cards and U.S. consumers start to spend as their stock portfolios improve."
While -- as this exercise shows -- anything could happen over the next 12 months, we can't really see why longer-term investors would buy government bonds over stocks at current valuations. And if that view gains momentum, stock markets could surge.
10. Russia's RTS index reaches 2,500
"Investors at the Russian stock market realize value in their index at a one-year forward P/E of 8.6 and price-to-book ratio of 1.26. The RTS nearly doubles to 2,500 in 2011."
If oil hits $100 a barrel, then Moscow investors will be in caviar. Compared with frothier emerging markets such as India, Russian shares look like a good value provided you can hold your nose and hope for the best.
More from Fool U.K.'s Owain Bennallack:
- Is This the Worst Float Ever?
- Lloyds Suffers the Bad Luck of the Irish
- How to Invest in Facebook and Twitter
See a stock in this story you'd like to follow? Add it to My Watchlist, which will find all of our Foolish analysis on it.