From debt ceilings to government shutdowns, 2013 certainly saw its economic ups and downs. And while you may have heard some of these news developments daily during the past year (will BlackBerry ever get it together?), they’re worth repeating, if only so we can look ahead to new stories, economic momentum and innovation in the year that waits.
And with that, let’s look at the stories that dominated the media and shocked the markets in 2013...
The stories that shocked & dominated the headlines in 2013
- National debt takes center stage
U.S. debt surged $328 billion in a single day this year. According to some predictions, the nation’s debt increases by over $183,000 every second. In fact, 2013 marked the first time that the nation’s debt has ever topped $17 trillion.
Don’t worry if you’re having trouble wrapping your head around those numbers - most economists feel exactly the same way. The $328 billion single-day surge eviscerated the previous single-day record of $238 billion, which was set two years ago. And while it’s difficult to understand the sheer weight of these numbers, it’s easy to see how this growing debt burden is impacting regular people. Higher interest rates, slow economic growth, weaker job markets and higher taxes are all part of the debt beast.
- The government shutdown
You can’t talk about the nation’s debt without also mentioning the biggest news story of 2013 - a two-week U.S. government shutdown that saw nearly a million government workers locked out and sent home. The first federal shutdown in nearly 20 years and the third longest in American history, this year’s government meltdown was easily the most important news story of the year. While caused by a number of different factors, the main one was fighting between Republicans and Democrats over a term we’re all quite familiar with by now - the debt ceiling. While the Obama Administration wanted to raise the debt ceiling - the amount government can borrow as it appropriates funds to pay for government spending in 2014 – the opposition refused to budge, objecting to budget provisions to fund the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
The shutdown ended when the senate voted 81 to 18 to raise the nation’s borrowing limit, just hours before the Treasury Department faced the possibility of being unable to pay the nation’s bills for the first time in modern history.
And while Obama ultimately achieved what he was after, it certainly came with a cost. And that’s not even mentioning the ongoing disaster over at the HealthCare.gov website…
- Twitter soars with public offering
Twitter took the No. 2 spot on the list of the top 10 internet initial public offerings of all time, beating out Google in money raised, with its nearly $2 billion IPO. While this is considerably less than what Facebook earned when it burst onto the IPO scene in 2012 (raising over $16 billion), the long-term forecast appears to be more favorable for the microblogging platform than for its ‘losing-its-cool’ predecessor.
- Blackberry sours
The fall of what was once the world’s top mobile hardware developer has been nothing short of spectacular. Back in 2008, the company had a market value of over $80 billion. In September of 2013, that had plunged to just $4.3 billion. According to reports in Forbes, the company’s market share in North America dropped from about 70 percent to a mere 5 percent. A company whose name was synonymous with “smartphone” in the early days, Blackberry simply stopped innovating, falling further and further behind competitors like Apple, Motorola, and Samsung.
After multiple attempts to bounce back in 2012 and early 2013, all of which failed, the company ousted Thorsten Heins (the man responsible for filling Jim Balsillie shoes), replacing him with interim CEO John S. Chen, former CEO of Sybase. Layoffs and acquisition rumors have now become the norm.
- Apple becomes…average
It seems like a strange item to include on this list, but after years of dominating the sales charts it appears as though Apple has finally hit its peak. Known far and wide as an aspirational brand, Apple has long banked on its luxury appeal and customer loyalty to keep it atop the sales charts. However, since the loss of Steve Jobs, the company has at times struggled to keep its momentum on the upward - including its share price. Of course, it continues to be one of the nation’s most valuable and profitable companies; there’s just something in the air that seems to hint of challenging days ahead.
Looking at the other side
Of course, amidst the shocking and formidable, there is always the stable and steady.
Indeed, while it was a rocky year on many fronts, 2013 also saw a number of financial improvements. Small market rebounds and slight shifts in the nation’s unemployment rate have cast a positive light on a number of economic fronts. These small wins are what many will cling to as we enter the new year.
Because there is no better time for optimism than with new beginnings.