The Ten Biggest Economic Stories of 2012

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Chinese Economy Overtakes Eurozone, Will Exceed U.S. Economy Within 4 Years: #7

The world’s soon-to-be-largest economy has some very modern architecture in its biggest cities. Image by WPPilot

The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reported that China’s economy will surpass the combined size of the Eurozone’s by the end of 2012, and is on pace to exceed that of the United States by 2016.

Already an inexorable economic force, and maintaining considerable leverage due to its vastly superior fiscal condition, the ramifications of China’s economy growth could be significant, including helping to force a move away from the dollar as the world’s reserve currency — possibly to the yuan.

Gun Control, Civil Liberties and Economics: #6

Always a charged subject during even the best of times, the recent spree shootings in Aurora, CO, Portland, OR and Newtown, CT have exposed sharp divisions over how the Second Amendment should be interpreted and whether or not assault-style guns and/or high-capacity magazines should be banned or restricted. All told, the direct and indirect impact of the firearms industry has been estimated at $27.1 billion per year, which explains why its primarily lobbying voice (the NRA) is arguably the strongest in all of Washington.

QE3: Historically Low Interest Rates Maintained: #5

Depending upon which side you’re on, QE3 could be a very good thing or an exceedingly bad sign of the times. For the consumer, the low interest rates are a very good thing, but for businesses and the economy as a whole, the evidence is decidedly mixed. During Japan’s “lost decades” a primary inhibitor of any recovery was the prolonged, artificial suppression of interest rates. Some would argue that current monetary policy, capped off by the Federal Reserve’s announcement of another round of Quantitative Easing, is ensuring the United States traverses a similar path.

Natural Disasters Inflict the Second-Highest Economic Damage in a Generation: #4

Topped by the massive damage inflicted by Superstorm Sandy, the inflation-adjusted economic cost of natural disasters in the United States during 2012 will surpass $100 billion. This season is second only to the major hurricane cost of 2005, which saw Hurricane Katrina ravage New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

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