In the US

The Biden administration's Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a package of measures to stimulate the US economy, boost investment in the energy transition and combat inflation, has given the market direction this year. It boosted infrastructure, major construction projects, the electric car industry (vehicles and batteries) and, to a lesser extent, the solar sector.

Following a high-profile trial, Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of the crypto-currency platform FTX , which has been bankrupt since the end of 2022, was found guilty in November of embezzlement and six other counts of fraud and conspiracy. Sentencing is scheduled for March 2024.

Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett's eternal right-hand man and vice-chairman of the investment firm Berkshire Hathaway, handed in the weapon at the end of November, just a few weeks before celebrating a century in business. Renowned for his wisdom on the stock market, he left a lasting imprint on twentieth-century finance.

The strike that paralyzed the US auto industry for over six weeks kept the media busy this autumn. Supported by the powerful UAW union, employees of the 3 major American automakers (Ford, GM, Stellantis) held firm, winning historic battles for social rights. The strike had only a limited impact on the industry.

Another labor movement caused a stir, given the symbolic importance of the industry in the United States. Screenwriters, supported by the WGA union, actors, voice actors and other film professionals took to the picket line to demand better pay and safeguards against the AI wave. These demands were met after 5 months of stalemate.

Unsurprisingly, Elon Musk invites himself into these lines. Not content with feeding the news pages with his scandalous declarations and the most absurd details of his private life, the richest man in the world has also occupied media space with his companies. The space company SpaceX has enjoyed a string of successes (or relative failures) and is fueling rumors of an IPO in 2024. Conversely, Twitter, delisted and turned X, has scared off all its advertisers, more than halved its value, and became a place where misinformation thrives.

With all due respect to Elon, the subject that really animated traders' counter discussions in 2023 was, without a doubt, generative artificial intelligence. The arrival of Chat GPT and Midjourney in our lives and in the stock market at the end of 2022 reshuffled a number of cards. Winners (Nvidia) quickly emerged. Let's wait a little to find out who the losers will be in this major technological breakthrough.

Finally, the last unavoidable subject to shake up the USA in 2023 is the series of bankruptcies in the banking sector. Overexposed to rising interest rates (to put it simply), several regional banks (Silicon Valley Bank, Signature Bank, Silver Bank, then First Republic, saved by JPMorgan) went out of business in the spring, weakening the entire American and global lending industry for a few weeks.

In Europe

Uniper, the German energy giant, is back on track. Rescued in extremis by the German government at the end of 2022, the group has fluctuated this year with speculation about its financial situation and a withdrawal from Berlin. This year, it has regained 32%.

ARM, the British semiconductor flagship owned by Japanese investor SoftBank, went public in mid-September. After months of hesitation, the group chose to list in New York, inflicting a slap in the face on its home country and the London stock exchange.

Novo Nordisk, the Danish pharma company that has flooded the market with its appetite-suppressant, weight-loss and stroke-reducing drugs, has also invaded the headlines. The immense success of its treatments has propelled the group's valuation beyond the GDP of its home country. The undisputed star of the year has gained 46% since January.

Times are tough for wind energy players. Supply constraints, component inflation and shortages, rising interest rates, investor disenchantment, political abandonment... There are more headwinds than there are blades. Denmark's Orsted has shed 40% since January 1, and its Spanish counterpart, Siemens Gamesa, was delisted by its parent company because its difficulties seemed so insurmountable.

While we're on the subject of insurmountable difficulties, let's mention Credit Suisse without dwelling on it too long. The list of the Swiss bank's blunders is endless, as is the list of measures to put an end to them. The joke is over: Crédit Suisse has now been swallowed up by UBS. The market considers that the bank with the three keys didn't do such a bad deal after all: UBS shares are up 53% this year.

The last major rout of the year was that of Signa, the Austrian real estate company that owns, among other things, New York's iconic Chrysler Building and $27 billion in real estate assets. The heavily indebted group was swept along by rising interest rates. Several subsidiaries have filed for bankruptcy, while others are being restructured. A handful of European banks are said to be dangerously exposed to the group.

In October, French rail equipment supplier Alstom surprised the markets by publishing a warning about its cash flow: in the first half of the year, free cash flow fell to a low of 1.15 billion euros. The announcement sent its share price plunging into the abyss, shedding 40% the same day and 47% since January 1.

Taken down in 2022 by a book revealing a series of human, financial and operational scandals within retirement homes, French group Orpea has continued its inexorable fall throughout the year. In recent weeks, the launch of several successive capital increases, followed by the Group's transfer to CDC control, dealt the final blow to the stock. It has lost almost 100% over the year.

French retailer Casino, Jean-Charles Naouri's retail empire, is collapsing under its debts. Rescue plans and negotiations with creditors are multiplying. As I write these lines, a takeover by the Auchan-Intermarché tandem is looming. The share price is down 93% since January.

In China

I'm going to summarize this section with 4 pieces of information.

China's real estate industry is unable to extricate itself from the crisis into which it has plunged itself. An imbroglio of monstrous debts, impossible financing, delirious projects, unfinished constructions and developers in difficulty have prompted Beijing to multiply measures to support and revive the sector, to no avail. Confidence in the country's economy has been permanently shaken.

At the very beginning of the year, another bubble - so to speak - marked Sino-American relations: Chinese balloons flew over the Americas. While Beijing claimed the balloons were meteorological measuring devices, the United States believed them to be espionage instruments and shot down several of them. The story goes that, in the end, they turned out to be weather balloons.

Among the stories coming out of China that lack clarity, or about which we suspect a withholding of information, let us note the great comeback of Jack Ma. The Chinese billionaire, who had "disappeared" from the radar after attacking Chinese regulatory authorities, is back in the spotlight with a new project for a farm produce and meal delivery company.

Finally, China's demographic decline is officially underway. We may smile quickly when we consider that the country's total population exceeds 1.4 billion, but the economic consequences of this slowdown will be unprecedented.

In the rest of the world

Argentina has a new president in Javier Milei, an ultra-radical economist who promised to debunk the central bank and give the IMF a run for its money. Once in office, he largely scaled back his major economic campaign promises. To be continued.

Japan enjoyed a historic stock market rally this year, pushing its two flagship indices, the Topix and Nikkei 225 , to absolute record highs.

On the archipelago, investor SoftBank paid dearly for its bet in WeWork, the office company founded by Adam Neumann, now bankrupt. The bill for the Japanese technology investor is high: Masayoshi Son's group is estimated to have lost $11.5 billion.

Macro and crypto

The mood of the evening was set by DJ Inflation: the FED, ECB and BoE have been dancing all year to the rhythm imposed by price growth, raising their rates in line with the basic melody. Everyone is already talking about the after-party - the rate cut - but nobody really knows where it will take place (or rather, when).

It took Bitcoin two years to return to its late 2021 levels. Boosted by hopes of an ETF dedicated to the crypto-rein, it has exploded since January: +156% gain.

Finally, in case you missed it, here's a list of M&A deals worth over $10 billion, across all sectors, in anti-chronological order.