These dog days between Christmas and the New Year are the season for crystal gazing.
The results seldom amount to more than traditional News Year's resolutions. Not much.
A survey yesterday said that 72 per cent of British women abandon their resolutions within the first month - and 60 per cent of the men.
For the stock market, crystal-gazing is largely a matter of extrapolating the recent past into the future, then aiming off for this factor or that - a pocket calculator job wrapped up in a layer of guff.
Before you take it too tragically, consider some of last year's predictions by organisations that pay people serious money to get such things right.
Goldman Sachs, the biggest payer of all, forecast that the Footsie 100 would finish 2005 at 5278 - precisely. Deutsche Bank said 5350, Societe Generale 5370, and Lehman Brothers 5100. Barclays Stockbrokers and Credit Suisse First Boston were more cautious still, both going for a round 5000.
In the event, the Footsie rose 27.4 yesterday to 5622.8 defying a 105-point drop on Wall Street overnight, the biggest one-day fall there in two months. And there are still two days to go.
A year ago, no sensible forecaster could guess that crude oil prices would fuel a raging boom in oil shares, while Chinese demand for all sorts of metals did the same for mining shares.
Starting from here, then, a sensible forecaster assumes that the present bull market has further to run. Providing the company results season in March produces nice and nasty surprises in equal measure, it can be argued that the market is still not over-valued.
The world seems awash with cash to fund dividend increases, share buy-backs and bids. Why should the music stop? Answer: because no market goes on year after year rising by almost 18 per cent - the 2005 score for the All-Share.
So the sensible forecaster predicts that the Footsie powers ahead for a few months, probably to 6000 or a little over, then stalls and drops back a bit. His chances of being right are no greater than in any other year.
Apart from the inevitable impact of unpredictable events, this time there is the great mystery of what is going on in America. Wall Street has not shared London's euphoria, let alone this year's dizzy surge on the Tokyo market. The Dow has risen by a nervous one per cent.
You cannot put all the blame on the dreadful hurricane season. Whatever the consequences for New Orleans and the Gulf coast, the American economy looks resilient again. Their shoppers were out in force, like ours, for a last-minute Christmas spree.
The underlying worry is what happens to the American housing market. If house prices have stopped rising, choking off easy-money remortgages, what will the great American consumer do for cash? And without abundant American cash how do the rest of us get on?
Not every scare comes true, though. Something that none of us has thought of will turn up to go wrong - or right. You don't see round corners in a crystal ball. ..SUPL: