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Top Financial Stories, 2015






I generally ask myself at this time of year what were the biggest stories of the past twelve months in business/financial news. 

Of course, I choose the ones I do largely because they illustrate an important theme, and in the list below I'll spell out and boldface the theme. Yet the theme itself isn't the story.

In terms of regional mix, with this line-up I've one whole-Pacific-basin story (March). One story is Australian (December), two European (January and June), one Chinese (May) and one Middle Eastern (July), The remaining six are US based (February, April, August, September, October, November). A nice thematic point: I both begin and end with issues over different currencies both traditional and innovative.

January:

Currency wars I: Switzerland abandons a peg of the franc to the euro (at 1:1.20) that has lasted for more than three years. The suddenness of the abandonment takes many market participants by surprise.

February:

Economics of crude oil I: President Obama vetoes a bill that would have cleared the way for completion of Keystone XL. (Later in the year, he'll kill the project outright.)

March:

Trans-Pacific Trade: There is new level of political visibility beginning this month within the US for the US-Japan talks at the heart of a broad 12 nation Trans-Pacific Partnership. It appears that TPP, and fast track status for it, may be big issues for the 2016 Presidential contest. (Negotiators would conclude their work in October.)

April:

Smartphone Wars: Google, the company behind the Android operating system for smartphones, defeats an antitrust tie-in lawsuit that had been brought on behalf of consumers in May '14.

May:

China: The People's Bank of China lowers its benchmark interest rate for the third time in half a year. This has been combined with repeated lowering of the reserve requirement. Still, the real economy is said to be sputtering. Two months later, "sputtering" will seem a very inadequate word.

June:

European business climate: The long showdown between Syriza and the Troika comes to a head at this month's end: Greece calls a referendum, and closes its banks for a week as the ATM machines run out of cash.

July:

Economics of crude oil II:  Oil prices have long been under downward pressure from the Saudi monarchy's desire for high volume sales. This month the pressure increased with a nuke deal designed to lead to the lifting of sanctions against Iran.

August:

Collective Bargaining: US. NLRB ruling in the Browning-Ferris matter may assist labor unions in organizing some fields at present largely unorganized.

September:

Minimum wage: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announces a proposal for a $15 minimum wage per hour for that state.

October:

Intellectual property:
A US appeals court upholds the Google Books project against copyright challenge, thus providing a clear confirmation of the ability of the digital revolution to upend expectations.

November:

Marijuana & the states: An effort to legalize marijuana in Ohio fails in a referendum; though the difficulty may have had as much to do with locked-in monopolization as with the substance at issue.

December:

Currency Wars II:  Australian authorities  raid the home of Craig Steven Wright in a dispute arising from tax issues, which may in turn relate to the possibility that Dr. Wright is the real creator of the cybercurrency Bitcoin.

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