It was an elementary exercise in crystal-gazing to proclaim 2008 would be the year of $100 oil.

What nobody that I noticed predicted was that it would happen in the very first trading session. The New Year started in headline-catching style in the way it looks set to go on.

Take the stock market.

It opened confidently, celebrating a report that Santander had not quite given up on Alliance & Leicester.

There is going to be more of that sort of thing, for sure.

If you want a certain bet for 2008, one is that there will be lively talk of bank takeovers and possibly one or two that actually happen.

Bank shares are cheap, some with better cause than others.

Events will reveal which, and which become predators and which the prey.

The moment the Americans got in to work yesterday, the mood changed with a set of dismal manufacturing numbers. Wall Street dived and London went sharply into reverse.

Brace yourself for more of that, too. Every chicken's entrail seemingly pointing to an American recession will provoke an over-reaction - until the recession bogey actually materialises, or else plainly fades away for the duration.

The wonder in all this is that five months into the credit crunch, the 100-share Footsie topped 6500 yesterday, however briefly - just 3.4 per cent shy of its 2007 high in mid-June. This may be billed as the year - or half-year - that the stock market comes down to earth. On that form the process has yet to start.

On the lofty scene of things, this is set to be a year of great events that cannot fail to over-shadow our workaday economic lives - the US presidential election and the Beijing Olympics for a start.

In that context we have whatever the lame-duck Bush administration does - or opts not to do - about Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.

Ten days ago, I would have cited Iran's atomic programme, hoping that the latest intelligence assessment had side-lined hard-nosed vice-President Cheney.

But Pakistan's is the Muslim bomb here and now, the property of what may be a failing state. Any decision, or lack of one, now is by its nature historic.

Less historic, but inescapable, is the position at home where we are ruled by a Prime Minister driven by a dreadful necessity to do something or other to prove himself, while the Government's finances are in a plight worse than any thing Gordon Brown faced during his ten years as Chancellor.

A Conservative Chancellor might, just, dump Gordon's "golden rule" and borrow the money regardless, saying it was a lot of meaningless mumbo-jumbo, discredited by Gordon himself when he moved the goalpost by shifting the treasury's timing of the economic cycle.

Alistair Darling cannot do that with his master sitting next to him in the Commons.

He will have to tax us instead. My uneasy forecast for 2008 is for the cruelest Budget since Norman Lamont.

On the bright side, remember, stock markets almost always do fine in years divisible by four. The magic of a US presidential poll? The Olympic spirit?