Even with the uncertainty of the pandemic lingering over us like a dull fog, there have been some eye-popping investing highs and plenty of roller coaster twists ’n’ turns during 2021. So kick back and let’s recap 10 of the biggest investing headlines of the year.
Global trade got beached as!
If you had a few rough days in 2021, spare a thought for the captain of the 220,000 tonne container ship Ever Given who wedged one of the world’s largest container ships across the Suez Canal in March. For six long days almost 30% of all global container traffic was brought to a stand-still, costing an estimated US$400 million every hour! It took 10 tugboats, specialised dredging equipment and the Little Yellow Digger That Could to free the ship, but even that wasn’t enough to prevent chaos from cascading into global supply chains.
All automakers want for Christmas is… an end to the chip shortage
The global shortage of semiconductor chips, which act as the electronic brains in everything from cars to computers, went from bad to worse. Factory fires and weather disruptions slammed the brakes on the supply of new chips and had automakers Ford (F) and General Motors (GM) desperately on the hunt for the elusive ghost chips. The two companies had to cut back production, and it’s been estimated the chip shortage could cost the auto industry as much as US$210 billion in lost sales.
Elon Musk crowned Technoking of Tesla, the trillion-dollar EV titan
One person who wasn’t fazed by chip shortages was Elon Musk, co-founder, CEO, and freshly crowned Technoking of Tesla (TSLA). Tesla was already having a great year with surging sales, but it was the October announcement that rental car company Hertz (HTZ) planned to buy a fleet of 100,000 Teslas that really set Tesla’s share price alight. Tesla’s market capitalisation soared to over US$1 trillion, making Musk the world’s richest person and landing him with one heck of a tax bill.
Memes stocks go to the moon... 🚀🚀🚀 briefly
One of the most watchable investing trends of 2021 was the Reddit-fuelled rise of meme stocks; previously unloved companies that rocketed to stardom at the hands of some noisy investors. We were introduced to the likes of Roaring Kitty, a Reddit user who was instrumental in kicking the whole thing off - the OG diamond hands. But, like all great internet memes, their popularity can be fleeting, and several big-name meme stocks have since had their share prices parachute back to earth.
…while billionaires raced to infinity and beyond
And while meme stocks were racing to the moon, Earth’s billionaire rocket builders were racing to blast themselves into space. Infamous entrepreneur Jeff Bezos was the first to announce his mission to space, only to have his rival Richard Branson set a launch schedule ahead of him which saw Branson win the bragging rights. After decades of development, the billionaire duo launched test flights in July, successfully making it to the edge of space, with Branson rocket-manning into weightlessness just days ahead of Bezos to take the gong.
Crypto crosses the great investing divide
It was a breakout year in the crypto space. The moat that once separated the share investing world and crypto world was bridged when Coinbase (COIN) and Robinhood (HOOD) became two of the year’s most talked about IPOs. There was even the launch of a bitcoin tracking exchange traded fund (ETF). The ProShares Bitcoin ETF (BITO) doesn’t actually hold any bitcoins at all, but that didn’t stop it from having one of the biggest ETF launches ever when it landed in October.
The internet became the ‘metaverse’
We’re sure to hear a lot more about the ‘metaverse’ in the years ahead, but Facebook staked their claim on our digital future when they announced plans to change their name to ‘Meta’ (FB) and pour US$10 billion into creating their vision. Digital world builder Unity (U) also announced a huge bet that we’ll spend more of our future hopping to-and-fro in digital lands, with its US$1.6 billion purchase of WellyWood’s own Weta Digital.
The great 2021 IPO bonanza!
Forget Keeping Up With The Kardashians, the blistering rate of new company listings in 2021 was worthy of its own reality TV show. A combination of low interest rates and investors excited to support new companies created the conditions for a record number of companies to go public. According to Renaissance Capital, 488 companies filed paperwork for an IPO between January and December, almost double the number filed in 2020, as well as 591 SPAC IPOs. Are we in the new roaring ’20s? Among the fresh faces for 2021 were two companies with a Kiwi heritage, sustainable shoemaker Allbirds (BIRD) and satellite launcher Rocket Lab USA (RKLB) which listed via a SPAC.
Inflation is just transitory, right?
From petrol prices to Netflix (NFLX), 2021 has seen our Kiwi dollars losing value to inflation at the fastest rate in a decade as economies bounce back from the pandemic. But it’s all just transitory, right?? US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell dropped the new buzzword back in April. But economies are complex machines and by November Powell was changing his tune as US inflation clocked in at 6.8%, the highest increase in 30 years with no clear end in sight.
The S&P 500 hits a hattrick of double-digit returns (Covid be damned!)
But not even inflation was holding back the S&P 500 index in 2021. The index is often used as a gauge of overall sharemarket performance in the US and returned 27% for the year to 10 December 2021. It’s the third year in a row of double-digit returns, a relatively rare event. The last time it hit the triple was from 2012 – 2014, and before that in the years leading up to the tech bubble in 2000. That’s not necessarily cause for alarm, but it is definitely a valuable reminder that investing is unpredictable and to stay prepared for whatever 2022 may throw our way.