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To say this has been a memorable year thus far would be an understatement. While it's a stretch to call any year since 2007 a bore, the sheer volume of natural disasters and stock market fluctuations worldwide is enough to make the first eight months and change of this year go down in the record books. But rather than speak volumes of the amazing economic vacillations we've witnessed, I figured I'd let some of this year's incredible figures do the talking for me. Here are 10 incredible figures from 2011:
$2.2 trillion: With just hours to spare before a possible default, the U.S. government passed debt-ceiling legislation in August which should result in cutting spending by $2.2 trillion over the next 10 years. Though it's still early in the process, companies heavily reliant on government spending could be in for a bumpy ride -- specifically names in the health care and defense sector. One need only look at the two-month performance of Amedisys (Nasdaq: AMED ) or General Dynamics (NYSE: GD ) for evidence of this.
139%: It's like Christmas without the wrapping paper in Greece. Everyone on Wall Street, even your local cab driver, knows that Greece is likely going to default on at least some of its debt obligations -- everyone except Greece. As the country turned a blind eye to its shrinking economy, lofty austerity aspirations, and ballooning debt load, one-year Greek bonds touched a never-before-witnessed 139% intraday yield yesterday. I for one didn't even know that was possible.
1.91%: It has been 60 years since the U.S. 10-year Treasury note had a yield this low attached to it. Since the note's yield is often seen as an indicator that dictates the direction mortgage rates are headed, it comes as no surprise that mortgage rates are also sitting near all-time lows. As much as I'd like to feel this is going to be a boon for the housing industry, sales so far this year have been less than stellar. There are also concerns that the U.S. Treasury will have trouble finding buyers of its bonds with rates hovering near 60-year lows. Winning? Not quite.
30,000: Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) announced the largest corporate job cuts in more than a year this week, signaling its intentions to shed 30,000 jobs in order to save $5 billion annually by 2014. Having already eliminated 6,000 jobs earlier in the year, Bank of America is scrambling to appease investors amid allegations that its loan portfolio is soured with toxic loans and its balance sheet is ill-equipped to deal with more economic shocks. The question now is, "Will it work?" As a Bank of America shareholder myself, I have my fingers crossed.
$70 billion: As I alluded to earlier, this has been a particularly rough year for insurers. While it's impossible to predict when and where natural disasters will strike, what with earthquakes, hurricanes and floods, insurers' balance sheets have been ravaged. Allstate (NYSE: ALL ) and Travelers (NYSE: TRV ) both reported sizeable increases in catastrophe losses this past quarter. Through the first six months of 2011, catastrophe losses ballooned to $70 billion -- ouch!
13,579%: This delectable percentage is the return Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) shareholders would have been privy to if they had held stock in Apple since it began trading publicly in 1980 through Steve Jobs' August retirement announcement. It's tough to predict whether Apple can maintain its technological dominance over its competitors, but as long as Steve Jobs is around in some capacity (remember, he is still the chairman of the board) it's likely that trend will continue.
71: Is the glass half-full or half-empty? In 2011 so far, we have witnessed 71 bank failures, which compares to 157 in all of 2010 and 140 in 2009. I'm not ready to pull out the pom-poms and declare victory over toxic mortgages just yet, but it's clear the trend is improving. Seeing good in bad ... you bet!
26.8%: According to Zillow, 26.8% of all U.S. homeowners owed more on their mortgage in the second quarter of 2011 than their home is actually worth. Since home prices peaked five years ago, roughly $10 trillion in home equity has been wiped out due to falling home prices. Perhaps even scarier is the near-term outlook on home prices, which is looking grimmer once again as U.S. GDP sinks closer to contraction.
58: Nothing says security like Diebold's (NYSE: DBD ) dividend. In February, the security system and service company announced its market-leading 58th consecutive annual dividend increase. You will not find a longer streak of annual dividend increases anywhere. Currently yielding north of 4%, this is the type of dividend stock investors dream about.
0: This grandiose goose egg represents the number of jobs created in August, and could be one reason behind President Obama's recent call for legislation to create jobs. Economic indicators have been weakening of late, and the unemployment rate has been stubbornly hovering above 9%.
What facts or figures have left you stunned so far this year? Share them in the comments section below and consider adding your own take on the above figures.