Financial year 2012 in review

November 28, 2012, 1:34 pm David Koch Yahoo!7

A flashback to the biggest stories that stirred the world of finance in 2012.


What an enormous year it's been in finance!

We've had the financial world hold its breath for two knife edge elections, the Aussie dollar continue a run like never in its history, China take a breather and commodity prices collapse, and shares smile, frown and furrow their eyebrows at every turn.

All the while the Aussie economy has extended its recession free run into a 21st year as economies around the world have gone backwards. As Glenn Stevens declared in June, we are still very much The Lucky Country.

We rang in 2012 at the petrol bowser alongside angry motorists.

The EU slapped an oil embargo on Iran as eyes spied scientists fiddling with uranium in the Middle East. This sent the price of oil ballooning above $100 a barrel, only to be brought back to earth by yet another edition of The European Debacle.

But plenty happened before that. We had Syria and Egypt battling themselves, Israel and Iran toe to toe and President Putin go unopposed to another term at the top of Russian politics.

Meanwhile the most heated debate Down Under was over the imposition of a mining tax and whether we’d receive the full whack of RBA rate cuts...

All this happened against the backdrop of unusually optimistic financial markets. Even as China reeled in growth forecasts, shares rallied all the way up to March with the local share market putting on 7% in the first three months of the year and US markets an even better 8%.

But all that suddenly changed, and quite dramatically.

After a period looking at mixed economic indicators around the world, the spotlight swung swiftly back onto Europe as Greece again wandered toward the exit.

“This time it’s different” the papers screamed as economists and stock pundits everywhere weighed up what a Euro Zone break up would mean.

In undoubtedly the biggest story of the year, the so called ‘Troika’, the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, put to Greece that it was austerity or the exit at the ballot box. And boy did that ruffle a few feathers.

We had Nazi era parties rallying protests and votes, bond yields spike and slide with every sentence from Troika leaders’ lips, and speculation quickly turn to the old economies of Italy, Spain and even France for a time.

But “this time” was no different. It never is. As much as we all got caught up in the drama and no doubt very serious potential ramifications, economies will boom and bust like they always have and we’ll all live another day.

Nevertheless, it was certainly scary for a while and remains unresolved by a long way.

A terrific London Olympic Games distracted us in July, providing a welcome boost to the economy there and taking eyes off economics for a while. And since that period of competitive calm, coupled with some co-ordinated bond buying by global central banks, share markets again staged a sustained rally.

From the start of July to the end of October the ASX stacked on almost 9%. The Aussie dollar gained a smidgen over one percent on the US dollar over that period, but remains on track to cap its best year on record.

In the year to date the local currency has dipped under parity for no more than a month and touched an unprecedented $1.085 at one point.

That's slammed exporters and aided the stampede to online retail too, but this was also helped along by new tablets, smartphones and other tech released in 2012 that continue to change the way we do business.

Over the course of the year we’ve also seen property prices head south with local pundits talking up a bottom in August as interest rate cuts proved impotent.

However many offshore commentators say we’re still in the rosy glaze of a huge debt laden property bubble that will, inevitably, burst.

Fingers crossed it doesn’t come crashing down like in the US though, who this month gave Obama four more years to try repair the mess that property collapse started.

While we wait on that we'll be watching the fiscal cliff face-off in the US, look out for which way Spain teeters, and with a bit of luck keep sailing pretty smoothly Down Under.

As RBA Governor Glenn Stevens said in June, “The years ahead will no doubt challenge us in various ways, including in ways we cannot predict. But what's new about that? Acting sensibly, with a long-term focus, has as good a chance as ever of seeing us through whatever comes our way.”

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