We sifted through hundreds of millions of visits from our readers to see what financial terms they searched for the most. 2018 brought us:
- Market volatility, the likes of which we haven’t seen in several years;
- The surge of the FAANG stocks to stratospheric valuations;
- A trade war between the U.S. and China that shook global markets;
- An inverted yield curve in the U.S. Treasury market that warned of an economic slowdown;
- A futurist CEO whose tweets about going private at $420 per share were costlier than expected;
- The arrest of a rapper for racketeering (of all things); and
- Scary charting patterns for stocks that tell us that the market will be bumpy for a long time.
Google says, "What is Bitcoin?"’ was one of its biggest queries in 2018. But the way we see it, the real question is, "Where is Bitcoin?" The O.G. cryptocurrency fell more than 80% from the highs it claimed in January of this year, taking reader interest along with it. Marijuana stocks wafted onto the scene as Canada and several U.S. states legalized cannabis and, while interest was high, the chronic was no crypto.
We may still be in the early stages of both of those industries, but one thing is certain: Investors are right in the middle of a volatile time for global markets. Our readers have read more than one billion pages on Investopedia so far this year trying to make sense of the markets and take control of their financial future.
We took a deep dive into which financial terms had the biggest increases in interest among our millions of readers around the world. We measured the increase in visits to those pages against a four-year average, and we measured interest in them month to month to see which terms spiked the most and sustained interest throughout the year. These were the top financial terms for 2018:
No surprise here. This term jumped 600% in March when President Trump announced increased tariffs on steel imports. China called that a "serious attack" on trade and promised to retaliate. They did and the escalating tariff battle has spooked markets from Shanghai to St. Louis. It has also revealed just how interconnected and globalized the industrial world has become. 2018 also brought the creation of a new trade agreement with the U.S., Canada and Mexico: the USMCA, which will replace NAFTA. Indeed, 2018 was a good year for our readers to brush up on global economics.
This was a layup, as they say on the court. Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google dominated headlines and pulled market indexes to record highs and back down again. Visits to our FAANG term jumped 400% in 2018, and it was in the top 10 of most-read terms for six months of the year. Each company was a massive story in and of itself and all continue to affect the way we live, learn, shop, interact and amuse ourselves. Whether it was Apple and Amazon becoming the first trillion-dollar companies, Facebook playing dangerous games with our personal and political data, Apple dazzling us with new gadgets that don’t sell as much as they used to, Netflix competing with us for sleep and Google being, well… Google, the FAANGs have us every which way.
Thank you, Elon. The Tesla CEO’s infamous tweet “...Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured,” on Aug. 7, lit up Twitter like a solar farm. #toosoon. Traffic to the term jumped 250% that month and stayed high, as Musk fanned the regulatory flames and insulted the SEC. It also cost Musk his chairmanship, $20 million in fines to the SEC and tens of millions of dollars in market value. Whether Musk was in a haze from working too hard and dreaming of Mars or actually thought his tweet would be a strong sign of corporate governance, we’ll never know. It did teach a lot of our readers what Going Private actually means. Thanks, Elon.
The younger folks on our team @Investopedia knew who Tekashi69, aka 6ix9ine, was before his alleged criminal activities drove readers to our definition of racketeering. The rapper, born Daniel Hernandez, was arrested in November for racketeering and firearms charges and could face life in prison. The charges against him have little or nothing to do with financial crimes, but since racketeering involves everything from gambling to cyber extortion to kidnapping, Tekashi69’s bad behavior helped educate hundreds of thousands of readers on our site. Our definition of racketeering generated over 300,000 visits in November alone.
It’s uncertain whether readers were curious about the sustainability of the record market highs or they wanted to learn about sustainable investing. We know a lot of our readers, especially the younger ones, have a lot of interest in the latter. That’s a good thing, especially in light of the devastating effects of climate change and the urgency to do something to slow it. We hope interest in this topic continues to grow, and we’ll keep feeding it.
Record highs for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and other markets is always good for visits to this term. We forget that a lot of people don’t know that the Average is really just 30 stocks. It’s arguable as to whether those 30 are the best representations of industry in 2018, but that’s for another time. GE, a stalwart on the Dow for decades, was dropped this year while Walgreens was added. The times, they are a changin’.
When you just can’t take it anymore... This term always bubbles up during heavy selloffs and volatility. We’ve had a truckload of both in 2018, but we haven’t seen outright capitulation just yet. Anyone around in 1987, 2000 or 2009 knows what that looks like, and it’s not pretty. Somehow we think this term will remain popular in the new year.
It sounds like something out of Game of Thrones, and it might be. But the terrifying technical analysis pattern reared its ghastliness more than a few times this year as stocks like Facebook and Amazon fell into it, as did major indexes like the S&P 500 and the Russell 2000. The death cross appears on a chart when a stock’s short-term moving average crosses below its long-term moving average. Typically, the most averages used in this pattern are the 50-day and 200-day moving averages. For non-charters, this means a stock or index fell through its near term lows and may be heading lower... aka, “Winter is coming!”
This is not a yoga position, but it took our breath away a few times in 2018. When long-term interest rates have a lower yield than short-term interest rates, as we saw with the 5-year U.S. Treasury and the 3-year U.S. Treasury this fall, it’s a sign that the economy may be headed for a slowdown and possibly a recession. Typically it’s the inversion between the 10-year U.S. Treasury and the 2-year U.S. Treasury that makes the market squirm, but we haven’t seen that quite yet this year. We are close, which is why you’ll hear more about this in 2019. Breathe.
See above. As the Federal Reserve has hiked interest rates and the U.S. economy shows signs of cooling, the yield on the benchmark U.S. Treasury has risen as its price has dropped. So many other interest rates are set off the 10-year, like home and car loans, that any rise in yield will be felt directly in our pocketbooks. On the other hand, interest rates have been so low for so long, savers and people living on a fixed income are finally earning money on their money. The 10-year Treasury is always important and popular, so expect to hear more about it in 2019.
There were some honorable mentions this year, as well. These were financial terms that saw an outsized increase in reader traffic, relative to their four-year index. Some of them took some digging to understand why people were so interested in them.
When a company or group of investors makes an unsolicited bid to buy the shares of another company at a higher price than where it trades, it is no warm and cuddly embrace. But as we looked back at the year, we couldn’t find too many prominent examples of this in the public markets. It turns out we can thank HBO for this one, particularly the show Succession. It tells the tale of a family-owned media business run by a King Lear-like mogul, Logan Roy, played by Brian Cox, and his son, Kendall Roy, played by Jeremy Strong, who is trying to wrest control of the company from his erratic father. Sure enough, interest in the term Bear Hug started to spike in late summer, just as episodes 9 and 10 were bringing the inaugural season to a crescendo, as Kendall makes a hostile bid for Waystar at his sister’s wedding. We won’t spoil the outcome, but we couldn’t be happier the show is coming back for season 2!
This surprised us, given that foreclosures in the U.S. are at multi-year lows and the housing market is in a much better place than we were a decade ago. Still, mortgage lending rates are rising and there is some fragility in the housing market across some major cities. Pre-foreclosure is when a borrower has defaulted on their mortgage payment and their bank or lender has initiated foreclosure proceedings. Some opportunistic real estate investors start circling when properties fall into this purgatory.
We are sure there are many CTOs, chief security officers and developers who have battle scars from implementing the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requirements in 2018, but let's hope we are all a little safer for them. GDPR is the legal framework for the collection and processing of personal information of individuals within the European Union (EU). GDPR sets out the principles for data management and the rights of the individual, while also imposing heavy fines for those who do not comply. If you want to do digital business in Europe, you need to know these four letters well.
Looking Ahead to 2019
2018 was anything but ordinary. It is our great honor and privilege to have so many visitors to our site from all over the world for 20 years now. That’s right! We celebrated our 20th birthday in 2019 and we know we wouldn’t be here without all of you. Thank you.
Caleb Silver – Editor in Chief