The Year of Missed Opportunity is behind us now. At least, we hope so.
The Year of Missed Opportunity, of course, is a euphemism for the years between 2007 and 2011, but last year was particularly consistent in the lost causes category.
The most obvious miss for 2011 was the chance at solving the debt crisis in Europe despite major efforts to do so.
The idea is to solve the problem. As condescending as that sounds, that's how solutions are measured. In the European Union, Germany's protectionism and a disparity on numerous fronts, including taxes and labor laws, support the status quo. Germany is protecting more than just the euro when it offers to bail out Greece, Portugal and Ireland: It is asking others to go with the Band-Aid approach. Surgery would be too threatening.
The Band-Aid, however, has proved futile. Greece last week announced it would not meet targets that were already too generous. It would miss reducing its deficit to 8 percent of the gross domestic product due to lower tax revenues than previously expected. European Union guidelines set the bar at 3 percent. Greece, for all the austerity measures and billion-dollar bailouts, predicted the deficit would be around 9 percent of GDP.
The International Monetary Fund, assessing Greece's difficulties, now says a write-off of more than 50 percent of Greek debt will be required. At some point, someone has to say if it looks like a default and acts like one, too, then the chances are it is one.
Greece is Europe's Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Every time a so-called solution is found, the news gets worse.
More than that, the solution is ludicrous. A bank at some point would cut Greece off, not continue to loan it billions of dollars in return for Greece decimating its economy with mandated austerity measures.
On the home front, when the Standard & Poor's 500 rolls through an entire year and winds up 0.04 points behind where it started, it sounds like missed opportunities were ubiquitous in 2011. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index lost 1.9 percent on the year and the Dow Jones industrial average gained about 5.5 percent. Gold soared to a record above $1,700, then took a sharp slide to end the year at $1,565.30.
The economy ended the year much the same way it ended 2010 with surprising gains in the labor market and consumer spending providing the lion's share of gains in the gross domestic product. Increased consumer outlays, however, run out of steam if home equity and job gains lag behind.
In international markets Tuesday, the Nikkei 225 index in Japan rose 0.67 percent while the Shanghai composite index in China added 1.19 percent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong rose 2.4 percent while the Sensex in India added 2.72 percent.
In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 gained 1.1 percent.
In midday trading in Europe, the FTSE 100 index in Britain added 0.96 percent while the DAX 30 in Germany gained 0.7 percent. The CAC 40 in France lost 0.76 percent while the Stoxx Europe 600 index gained 0.42 percent.
|Additional Analysis: Economic Outlook Stories|
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