Investing Insight - Sympatico / MSN Finance - U.S. housing market drop tops the year's business news, says AP survey
1 Housing slips Lower since the great depression
2. ENRON'S FINAL ACT
Convictions of former CEOs Jeff Skilling and Ken Lay looked like the final act of the Enron drama, but Lay died in Aspen before he was sentenced and a federal judge vacated his conviction, halting a federal effort seeking millions from Lay's estate. Skilling, 53, reported to a Federal prison in Minnesota Dec. 13 to begin a sentence of 24 years and four months.
3. BACKDATING SCANDAL
News that executives and directors manipulated their option grants to inflate their gains rocked the executive suite. At least 195 companies disclosed federal or internal investigations and at least 59 senior executives or directors have left their companies as of Dec. 19. Among the highest profile to fall were UnitedHealth Group Inc.'s William McGuire, who was pushed out as the company's chairman and CEO, and Jacob (Kobi) Alexander, the former CEO of Comverse Technology Inc., who fled to Namibia, where he is fighting extradition.
4. AUTO WOES
Demand for U.S. auto makers' vehicles, especially sport utility vehicles, shrunk and their market share eroded. About 38,000 unionized Ford Motor Co. workers, more than half the company's U.S. hourly work force, said they would take buyouts. Through buyouts and early retirement, General Motors Corp. cut 35,000 jobs, nearly one-third of its hourly U.S. workers. Companies' bonds sunk into "junk" ratings and they were reduced to using plants or inventories as loan collateral.
5. OIL PRICES
War in the Middle East and soaring demand sent oil prices above $78 a barrel, an all-time record. The big winner from the sky-high prices were oil companies, whose profits hovered near their 2005 records. Oil prices have since fallen, but the summer's run has renewed rumblings about conservation and oil dependency.
6. GAS PRICES
Summer gas prices hit highs of $3.04 a gallon thanks to soaring crude oil prices, tight refining capacity and fears of another disastrous hurricane season. Increased prices began to sour the U.S. romance with gas-guzzling SUVs, hitting U.S. auto makers with another blow. Gas prices have since dropped, too, but drivers remain nervous.
7. FED HALTS
The Federal Reserve halted the rate hikes that had lifted its target short-term interest rate from one per cent in early June 2004 to 5.25 per cent in June 2006. While stock traders saw a slowing economy and looked forward to rate cuts, the Fed's Bernanke said the central bank was keeping a sharp eye on inflation, which could take rates higher.
8. HP SPYING
HP's boardroom infighting ended in humiliation. Chairwoman Patricia Dunn was hauled before Congress, ousted from her office and indicted for her role in a boardroom spying scandal in which private investigators lied and schemed to obtain the phone records of directors and reporters. Now the company's CEO is being asked to tell Congress about the $1.37 million worth of options he exercised just before the scandal became public.
9. CHINA TIGER
China's economy continues to grow more than 10 per cent a year and its trade surplus with the U.S. is the largest ever. While officials are trying to slow growth and questions linger about whether Chinese banks are too loose with loans, the economy has showed only modest signs of slowing.
10. RECORD DOW
The Dow Jones industrial average climbed above 12,000 for the first time ever, outpacing broader indexes. The Standard & Poor's 500 edged closer to its 2000 high and the Nasdaq composite index was miles behind its own record