Economic near-collapses, market corrections, deals, overvaluations, and scandals — and we still have a few weeks to go in 2015. What other business and economic headlines could we see before the end of the year? While you ponder that question, consider these ten big stories of the year so far.
1. U.S. Stock Market Correction Creates Bear Market Fears – August and September were rough for equities as all three major stock exchanges fell by at least 10% and entered correction territory. On August 24th, the Dow opened its session by dropping more than 1,000 points in the first few moments of trading, based mostly on collective fears about the Chinese economy. The market has since recovered and is essentially flat for the year.
2. Worldwide Merger Mania – Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are on a record pace as companies try to keep up their growth and stock prices. Pfizer recently announced a whopping $160 billion buyout of Allergan to create the biggest merger to date. Total M&A values for the year may approach $5 trillion.
3. Greek Economy Approaches the Edge – The leftist Syriza party and prime minister Alexis Tsipras pushed Greece to the brink of default and the Eurozone to the edge of breakup by rejecting the austerity conditions placed on them by European creditors and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Eventually Greece backed down and accepted relatively harsh terms for economic bailouts, and the Eurozone remained intact by avoiding a "Grexit" (Greece's banishment from the Eurozone).
4. Chinese Economy Tanks – After years of relatively high growth rates, the Chinese economy began to stall as it embarked on the transition from a manufacturing economy to a service and consumer economy. Commodity prices fell along with demand, and Chinese stocks plummeted despite government efforts to prop up growth (even devaluing their currency). The Chinese market plunge propagated to other markets, including the U.S.
5. Oil Prices Continue to Fall – Thanks to a massive oversupply and no cuts in production, oil prices continued to drop from the $60 per barrel range to less than $40 per barrel. Gas prices have similarly dropped to around $2.00 on a nationwide average. Only eighteen months ago, the oil price was over $100 per barrel.
6. Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement Reached – A tentative TPP deal was reached establishing trade/intellectual property rules and lowering tariffs between the U.S. and eleven other nations from the Americas and the Pacific Rim. President Obama was able to get TPP through the Senate but the House remains a hard sell.
7. Minimum Wage Hikes Increasing – Minimum wage hikes are gaining momentum across America , with large retailers such as WalMart joining in. States and cities are taking pre-emptive action on wages. Examples include Seattle instituting a $15 minimum wage to be phased in over time, and New York's $15 minimum wage mandate for fast-food workers.
8. VW Emissions Scandal – Volkswagen may have irreparably tarnished their reputation with the revelation that VW engineers programmed internal software in their diesel cars to cheat on U.S. emissions tests. The scandal has spread to cover some gasoline vehicles and vehicles sold in Europe. VW's reputation as a responsible "clean" car company has been seriously damaged, and may be gone forever.
9. Obamacare Wins again in the Supreme Court – Opponents of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) were disappointed yet again by the Supreme Court in June. The high court ruled that consumers who purchased insurance through the federal health care exchange were eligible for subsidies, just as those who purchased insurance through the states. A decision against the subsidies would have produced economic chaos for many consumers.
10. 'Ubervaluation" for Uber – Uber, the on-demand transportation provider, has reached valuations of somewhere between $50 billion and $70 billion, depending on the source. That is an almost absurd valuation for a company that makes no profit and is facing legal challenges regarding classification of employees.
We can predict that before the year is out there will be one more big business headline to consider —"Fed Finally Raises Interest Rates." In reality, it would be a bigger headline if the Federal Reserve fails to follow through yet again.