The Ten Biggest Economic Stories of 2012


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President Obama’s re-election tops the list of economic impacts during 2012. Photo by Pete Souza

As the United States slowly grew its way out of the most calamitous financial downturn since the Great Depression, 2012 was yet another event-filled year in the business world.

Some sectors of the economy sprung to life after years of moribund performances; others leveled off or even slid backwards due to uncertainty or political upheaval.

Speaking of politics, high stakes poker played out in the battle for the White House, directly affecting the course of the country for years to come.

There’s been a lot of economic news in 2012. Selecting the top stories may seem arbitrary, but nevertheless we’ve made the following choices: These are our picks for the top 10 economic stories of 2012.

The Facebook IPO Fiasco: #10

One of the most anticipated IPOs in recent memory debuted not with a bang, but instead a whimper, as the initial $38 opening price was apparently wildly optimistic. The stock fell by almost $4 on day one, and another $3 the next day.

It continued on a generally-downward trajectory until reaching a low of $17.73 on September 4th. Since then, the price has improved by over $9 a share, but still has a ways to go to reach the inflated opening price.  On December 17th, IPO underwriting firm Morgan Stanley was fined $5 million by Massachusetts regulators for alleged improprieties with respect to information provided to analysts.

U.S. Economy On the Mend: #9

The economic recovery is tepid and anemic by most measurements. Having said that, the damage to the U.S. economy was so extensive during the 2007-09 recession that it was long predicted the recovery would be U-shaped, meaning relatively flat in the early years. Such has been the case, with lackluster growth not generating the number of jobs one would otherwise expect the economy to produce during this stage of the business cycle. Despite that, the official unemployment rate dropped to 7.7% in November, a four-year low, and the Dow Jones rallied 7.3% for the year.

Europe’s “Double Dip” Recession: #8

While the United States has — for now — avoided an austerity-induced recession repeat, much of Europe had to swallow their medicine by slashing government spending. As a direct result, the region is in the midst of yet another recession. The Eurozone collectively posted -.2% growth in the second quarter of 2012, and -.1% during the third quarter. The worry, of course, is whether or not this recession will spread to the rest of the world, including the United States. Although The Confidence Board predicts a modest slowing of the U.S. economy in 2013, it has not forecast a recession, unless a failure to reach a ‘fiscal cliff’ deal forces the issue.

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