The List – Top 6 Financial Events of 2013

By on December 30, 2013

From new Popes to Bitcoins, Boston bombings, Government Shutdowns and Obamacare, 2013 has certainly been an eventful year. But it wasn’t such a bad year – in the end, investors, retirees, businesses and college students succeeded or at least survived the storm of scandals and government chaos.

2013 was a great year for investors, business and the US markets in general. Many factors contributed to the bullish year such as low-interest rates and government stimulus despite the uncertainties being experienced in world news.

As the year draws to a close and 2014 gets ready to kick off, we took a look back at six of the most significant financial events of 2013:

1. Stock Markets Stay Strong in 2013

Despite a relatively sluggish December, the Dow set another record high to close at 16,504, the NASDAQ is at a 13 year high and the S&P 500 rose about 29 percent over the year in one of the best bull market runs since the 2008 financial crisis.

The Federal Reserve stimulated investment by buying lots of government bonds to keep long-term interest rates low, enticing buyers to purchase homes or stocks in companies. Large and Mid-cap companies achieved record profits in 2013, which was a boon to stockholders and traders alike.

Speaking of record profits – Yahoo, T-Mobile and Pandora were top performers in tech stocks in 2013. Pandora, the internet radio app, saw shares nearly triple as they reaped over $640 million from paid advertisements. And as third in mobile ad revenue (behind Google and Facebook) businesses will be looking to Pandora for outlets to new audiences.

And who knows, some are even predicting this bull market will continue through 2014, so be prepared.

2. New Trends in Business

2013 saw the rise of social media and mobile for business. While individual consumers have caught onto the mobile device craze, businesses (small and large) have been slow to capitalize on the modern digital space.

Netflix on the Rise

Well 2013 was the year of Netflix. On the heels of Blockbusters collapse in 2011 many believed Netflix would be a business and investment success until doubts crept in with the rollout of streaming movies. While Netflix (NFLX) stocks were volatile this year they were on the rise, the company took major risks to change the face of Hollywood, and all this while adopting a well-engineered mobile operation.

The stock was one of the best overall performers on the S&P 500, nearly quadrupling in price over 2013. The company nearly doubled membership from 25 to over 40 million users within the year thanks to original programming hits House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. Bypassing normal Hollywood distributions by simply producing its own compelling “TV” series.

And by turning its attention to making TV and movies available on all mobile devices (streaming), users could catch up on their Breaking Bad episodes on their iPads and smartphones in a new trend called binge-viewing. 2013 was certainly the year of Netflix and we hope to see more original content and seamless delivery of programs and movies next year.

Candy Crush Saga is 2013’s Most Lucrative Mobile App

Candy Crush Saga is the online/mobile game capturing everyone psyche and spare time on subways, office meetings and elevators. Brought to us by the Swedish division of a UK company (King),Candy Crush Saga has now been downloaded more than 500 million times on mobile devices, and played 150 Billion times across web, Facebook and mobile.

While the Free game was one of the most popular games of 2013 on androids, apples and Facebook, the game was uniquely the most successful generators of in-game purchases, to the tune of 2 to 3 million dollars earned a day. And as more people encourage their friends to play, King games attract 282 million unique players across all its games each month. Look for the company to consider selling public shares of stock in 2014.

An Insurance Company is a Leader in Viral Marketing

If you haven’t been living under a rock this year, you’ve come into contact with the GEICO Camel. The insurance giant along with The Martin Agency has been pumping out viral hits year after year since the introduction of their GEICO Gecko in 1999, to the Cavemen of the early 2000s. Their latest series emphasizes the joy of saving money on car insurance with Happier than…” ads, which struck gold in May 2013 with the Hump Day Camel.

The Hump Day Camel has over 15 million views on YouTube (more than any other video in GEICO’s library of ad hits combined) and spawned a pop culture phenomena. The camel – named Caleb, by the way – was tapped again for a movie theatre ad-spot to encourage attendees to turn off their cellphones.

For over a decade, the GEICO Insurance Company (and the Martin Agency) has been churning out “water-cooler” gold. In 2013, they kept us shouting “Hump Day!” to our friends and co-workers – once again proving that insurance can be a hip thing to talk about.

3. Real Estate Markets are Still on the Mend

While the markets and business have seen a successful year, the real estate markets have been continuing its slow, steady climb back to “normal”. Five years after the housing bubble bust and financial crisis, the housing market still has some healing to do, but new home sales have been on the rise.

New home sales have reached their highest level in 2008. Existing home sales are only off by about 2 percent from average. However, construction continues to be down for the year. While 2013 wasn’t a break-out year for housing, it was a good one – which is more than we could say a few years prior.

4. JPMorgan Chase Bank Agrees to Fines

Speaking of the housing markets, this November saw JPMorgan Chase Bank and the US Department of Justice settle on fines for bank’s involvement in the troubled mortgages which led to the housing bubble and crisis. The biggest U.S. bank agreed to pay $13 billion for misleading Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac about mortgage bonds it sold them that later went belly up.

The settlement barely put a dent in JPMorgan’s net income from this year, so they’ve agreed to pay. On the downside: The settlement does not absolve them (or their employees) of any possible criminal charges. However, on the bright side: $7 billion of the penalty is tax-deductible.

5. Government Chaos Creates Uncertainty

Congress nearly derailed the economy — not once but several times on 2013. Somehow all this political uncertainty did not translate into long-term market slumps, but it certainly had us wondering if we would make it through the year without pulling-out our hair.

The Fiscal Cliff and Government Shutdown

Let’s start with the looming fiscal cliff and lapse of special tax cuts and credits in January. The lapse of tax cuts means the average American paycheck took a hard hit. Then instead of passing a budget they let deep federal spending cuts (sequestration) take effect in March. When that still didn’t curb debt, they raised the debt ceiling again in May and the debates continued throughout the summer with no agreement in sight.

The dysfunction peaked in October of 2013: With the debt ceiling reached, unable to agree upon a 2014 budget, and the Affordable Care Act set to rollout, Congress shut down most of the federal government for 16 days. National parks were closed. Federal employees were furloughed.

In the end, they had to come back to work or risk a default on its debt. On October 17, Congress reopened the government and agreed upon a two-year budget deal in December.

The Affordable Care Act Roll-out is Dysfunctional

The government shutdown in October 2013 meant real problems for the launch of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Without employees to continue work on the website as millions of users began logging in, it was nearly impossible impossible for uninsured individuals and small businesses to sign up on the slow-loading, glitched federal website. The Obama Administration had a lot of quick fixes, deadline extensions and questions to answer as it tried to clean-up the PR mess.

College Student Loan Rates Rise and Fall as Congress Negotiates

To round out the dysfunction of Congress, in the midst of the federal debt crisis in the summer, Congress could not agree on changes to the government-run college student loan system. Delays on an agreement led to a quick rise in interest rates from 3.5 to 6.8% (costing college students an estimated $2600 to fund their education) in July.

The rise in rates is expected to help pay down the federal debt, but it also might mean less students headed to college and growing our industries. Dispute little agreement on other financial matters, Congress was able to come to an agreement to lower rates by August, bringing some relief to frightened college students.

6. Emerging Legal Challenges and Changes

Along with this years financial challenges, 2013 saw some major changes to the law which may impact your home-budgets, estate plans and business protections.

Federal Recognition of Same-Sex Marriages Sets New Precedent for Estate Planners, Tax Accountant and Lawyers

June 2013 was a big month as the US Supreme Court recognize same-sex marriages as equal under federal law with several rulings DOMA and California’s Prop 8. Estate planners, lawyers and tax accountants are in a dash to go back 3 years to alter tax returns or redraw home budgets, wills, estate and retirement plans so couples can financially and/or legally support each other. Even insurance agents have drawn into the new market frenzy as same-sex married couples try to file for health insurance before the end of 2013.

Cyber Attacks Have Businesses and Legal Teams Checking their Insurance

And finally to end 2013, businesses and individuals are reminded of their vulnerability to cyber attacks and identity fraud. This December, the major retail chain Target, based in Minnesota, was the victim of a widespread hack which stole millions of customer credit card and debit numbers.

This was a final reminder after the cyber attacks earlier in 2013 on Twitter, NBC and JPMorgan Chase Bank, which proved that: Everyone is a target whether you are a individual or big bank, Most of us aren’t taking the necessary steps to protect our online privacy and data, and Business are not properly insured to cover the enormous costs some of these cyber attacks can leave in their wake.

Goodbye to 2013 and Happy New Year 2014!

2013 certainly brought us some financial events worth talking about. Thankfully its been a bull market – a trend we hope to see continue into 2014 – and we’ve solid growth in a number of sectors. We will be keeping an eye on the financial news and events which are sure to have an affect on your financial safety net, so have a Happy New Year and see you in 2014!

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About Terri A. Kamoto

Senior writer for FSN - Terri is a former financial analyst dedicated to making personal finances, budgeting, investment and insurance advice accessible, up to date and easy to understand. It is hard to find professional advice written in a language someone without a financial background can understand. Terri helps companies synthesize industry lingo and expertise into clear and informative content which builds smarter, financially successful individuals. You can find Terri on !

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