What Was the Biggest Market Event of 2010?

Every year has its share of major market news events, but it certainly feels like über-volatile 2010 has had enough big news to fill up several years’ worth of headlines. So, what was the biggest news event of 2010? 

We at InvestorPlace have some ideas, but we thought it would be more important to hear what you, the reader, have to say about the biggest stories of 2010.

The following is a list of a dozen major market stories that could qualify as the biggest story of 2010.

Tell us what you think qualifies as the No. 1 news item of the year — take our poll at the bottom of the page:

Health Care Reform Legislation: After months of debate and public protest, in March President Obama signed the controversial health care reform bill into law. The new law represents the most expansive social legislation enacted in decades. The future impact of this legislation on the economy might just make this the biggest market story of the year. 

The Mark Hurd Affair: Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE: HPQ) CEO Mark Hurd resigned in August after it was discovered that he had a personal relationship with a contractor who had received inappropriate payments from HP. News of the scandal sunk shares of the world’s biggest maker of personal computers and printers, and millions of dollars in shareholder wealth were destroyed. 

The BP Oil Spill: The months-long BP plc (NYSE: BP) oil spill disaster began in April, and effectively ended when the well was finally capped in July. The largest marine oil spill in history sent nearly 5 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. It also took a huge bite out of the economy, and severely knocked down the value of stocks in the energy sector.

The Midterm Congressional Election: Republican’s gained control of the House of Representatives in a big way on Nov. 2, and they also added a number of seats in the Senate. The changing of the Congressional guard was viewed by many market observers as a rejection of the direction President Obama’s party had taken the country.

FinReg: It’s widely considered the most sweeping regulatory overhaul since the Great Depression ­­– FinReg, or the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 — creates stricter rules for the way business is conducted by Wall Street. The new law could have serious long-term implications — both positive and negative — on the market for decades to come.

QE2: In November, the Federal Reserve moved to inject another $600 billion dollars into the financial system via the practice of buying Treasury bonds. The move, termed quantitative easing, part II, or QE2, put the Fed in the crosshairs of a skeptical public.  Initial reaction to QE2 was big buying in the equity markets. But will the policy have the intended effect of creating “positive inflation,” or will it be yet another failed attempt to extricate the economy out of the doldrums?

The Gold Boom: The price of the yellow metal went ballistic in 2010, hitting all-time highs throughout the year. Investors around the globe appear to be searching for an alternative to beaten-down currencies such as the euro and the U.S. dollar. The lack of confidence in paper money could be a dark harbinger of things to come for the global economy.

The Flash Crash: On May 6, the market went for a truly wild ride, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average saw its largest intraday decline in history — a whopping 998.5 points that wiped away $1 trillion in market value. The shock was temporary, thankfully, and the market recovered those losses within minutes. The cause of the Flash Crash was determined to be a combination of high-frequency and automated trading, large directional bets on the market and technical glitches. The episode scared an already skittish market, and caused a lot of fear over Wall Street’s safeguard mechanisms.

Emerging Market Boom: There was a huge influx of money into emerging markets in 2010, and that caused the value of stocks in countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines to surge. Through the end of September, Indonesian stocks were up 44%, Thailand stocks were up 35% and the Philippine market was up more than 30%. The flow of money away from the U.S. and Europe and into emerging markets such as Asia and Latin America could also be a sign of things to come.

The Apple iPad: Perhaps the most anticipated tech product release in years, Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPad hit stores in April, and in just 28 days the company announced that it had sold over 1 million iPads. The success of the tablet computing device proved consumers still want the hottest, coolest, electronic devices from Steve Jobs and company. Now there’s talk of the iPad 2, which will likely be released sometime in the spring of 2011.

The Return of GM: In late November, the iconic U.S. automaker reclaimed the ticker symbol (NYSE: GM) as it began trading again on the New York Stock Exchange. Initial demand for GM shares was strong, and the company increased the initial offering price several times before the stock’s debut. Soon after GM began trading, the banks backing the IPO exercised their right to buy an additional block of shares in the restructured automaker. GM’s return is a big step toward soothing a still-wounded public’s bailout rage.

The European Debt Crisis: Many of the countries in the euro zone — including Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain — had serious problems funding their governments in 2010.  Drastic budget shortfalls and the need to implement fiscal austerity plans caused social unrest in some cases, and the need for EU bailouts and other fiscal fixes brought out the peril of too many government promises, and not enough money to deliver those promises.

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