31 December 2010
Top Financial Stories 2010
By "stories," I don't mean themes, such as "China Rising" or "EU unraveling." I mean stories, such as one might have seen in a particular newspaper on some specific day. Of course, I choose the ones I do largely because they illustrate an important theme. But the theme itself isn't the story.
Further, I don't rank them, as in a top ten list. I generally assign one top story to each of the twelve months.
All that said, here is this year's list.
January. Google announcement. Google said that it was no longer willing to censor its searches in the People's Republic of China in accord with the desires of the authorities there. This was part of an escalating dispute that would lead to Google pulling out of China altogether in March.
February. Two competing biotech companies in Denmark claimed a break through in the production of commercially viable cellulosic ethanol.
March. U.S. health care reform bill finally passed -- though the actual changes are to be phased in over a period of years. Judicial challenges to the new law are an ongoing story as the year ends.
April. Greek bonds. The S&P rating for these bonds was lowered to junk level. The unfortunate acronym "PIIGS" for the 'periphery' countries of the EU receives some currency. (For the record, that's Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain.)
May. The EU Finance Ministers. The Finance Ministers over-rode the strong objections of both the outgoing and the incoming UK government, approving the Alternative Investment Fund Manager (AIFM) Directive.
June. The Gulf of Mexico oil spill. This spill had begun with an explosion on the Deep Horizon platform in April, but it grew as a story week after week, and only this month did it attain totemic full-sh!t-storm significance, even at the level of diplomacy between US and UK.
July. The Dodd-Frank bill reforming the way the financial services industry in the U.S. is regulated, passed. Obama signed it. Much of it kicks the can forward, authorizing reports and possible new regs by a variety of agencies. Some obvious reforms, like the consolidation of CFTC with SEC, go still unmade.
August. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority. The HKMA announced the tightening of its rules on mortgage lending. This reflected its concerns about a developing real estate bubble in the Special Administrative Region.
September. Muncipal bonds in the U.S. Meredith Whitney put out a 600 page report predicting big trouble ahead for the municipal bond market in the US. By serendipity, she released this just as Harrisburg, PA was getting into big fiscal trouble.
October. Sarkozy, President of France. This month, the President pushed pension reforms through the French legislature despite crippling nationwide strikes. (And since we're talking about France, this was also the month that Kerviel was sentenced.)
November. Midterm elections in the US. The most remarkable development here, from the point of view of this list, was the defeat of a proposition designed to suspend AB32, in California, and the election of a Governor committed to enforcing same. AB32 is California's cap-and-trade bill regarding carbon emissions. This development has kept cap-and-trade alive, despite its political failure at the federal level.
December. Ireland. In crisis, and after cutting a deeply unpopular deal with the IMF, Ireland enacts legislation that readies a sweeping re-organization of the banking sector there. Memories of the "Celtic tiger" are just that.
A quick perusal of this list shows that it is much less of a US-centric compilation than most of its precursors in this blog. I have a hometown bias. In this case, though, only five of the stores that strike me as the biggest in their respective months are US-oriented. Five are European, and the other two are Chinese. What does that mean? Nothing much, I suppose.
Happy new year everyone.
Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.