2021 Is in the Record Books: A Year of Memes, Crypto, and Stock All-Time Highs.


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This year saw lots of stock record highs, meme mania, a jump in IPOs, and much more.

Staff Illustration; Dreamstime (9)

The year 2021 has been a grueling one, maybe even more grueling than 2020. Gauging the economic fallout from new coronavirus variants—first Delta and now Omicron, a surge in inflation, and a wave of meme stocks and cryptocurrencies hasn’t been easy for the average investor. And yet, stocks forged ahead, notching plenty of records along the way. The S&P 500 hit its 70th record close of 2021 on Wednesday, reaching 4,793.06. That’s the benchmark’s most record closes in a year since 1995’s astounding 77, according to Dow Jones Market Data. The Dow Jones Industrial Average set its first record close since Nov. 8 on Wednesday. It reached 36,488.63 for its 45th record close of the year.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite is off 1.8% from its 16,057.44 record close on Nov. 19—the 46th of the year.

Apple (ticker: AAPL) locked in its 24th record close of the year on Monday, at $180.30. The iPhone maker’s shares have gained 35% in 2021. Chip maker

Nvidia (NVDA) hit a record close of $333.76 on Nov. 29, although shares are back down to $300.01. The graphics card powerhouse’s shares have surged 130% since the start of January.

Devon Energy (DVN), up about 180% in 2021, is the S&P 500’s top performer. Exchange-traded funds pulled in $900 billion of new money by mid-December, up from $500 billion in 2020. A record 450 new ETFs were launched, with the industry growing to $7 trillion.

GameStop (GME), the original meme stock, surged as high as $483 in January after users on social media sites like Reddit and Twitter banded together, piling into the stock to thwart short-selling hedge funds. At $153.93, shares still trade at multiples higher than historical levels and are up 717% year to date. Another meme stock,

AMC Entertainment Holdings (AMC), soared to $72.62 in June. Shares are now trading at $27.81, up 1,218% year to date but below levels last seen in early 2017. The meme trader hub, Reddit’s vulgar and irreverent WallStreetBets forum, ballooned from about 1.7 million subscribers in January to nearly 11.4 million at latest count, numbers from subredditstats.com show. The year’s top WallStreetBets post—a video of a GameStop stock billboard in Times Square—garnered 447,000 net up-votes on the forum. With more retail investors engaged than ever thanks to the rise of commission-free trading, NYSE Composite and Nasdaq Composite trading volumes combined hit 2.36 trillion shares, already topping a 2020 mark of roughly 2.26 trillion, according to figures from Dow Jones Market Data. It isn’t just existing equities riding high. Gross proceeds from operating company initial public offerings hit $118 billion—close to double the totals in 1999, 2000, and 2020, which were the previous highs,, IPO expert Jay Ritter told Barron’s. Ritter’s figure screens out offer prices of less than $5 and other things like American depositary receipts, unit offers, closed-end funds, real estate investment trusts, among other filters. He also separates special-purpose acquisition company IPOs from operating company IPOs. The parade of SPAC IPOs marched on, with a record 612 raising $162.28 billion in gross proceeds, according to data from spacinsider.com. Earlier this year,

Grab Holdings (GRAB) raised $4.5 billion at a valuation of $37 billion, both records for a SPAC, according to DealLogic.

Cryptocurrencies became a social media obsession for many, with Bitcoin, Ether, and the meme crypto Dogecoin among those hitting records earlier in the year. Non-fungible tokens, a kind of blockchain-backed receipt for digital goods, also had a breakout 2021. A digital work of art by Mike Winkelmann, who is known professionally as Beeple, sold for $69.3 million at a Christie’s online auction in March. As

Facebook rebranded itself as

Meta Platforms (FB) to signal aspirations for building the next evolution of the internet, called the metaverse, the term exploded into the mainstream. According to earnings call transcripts tracked by Sentieo, the term metaverse was mentioned in 224 calls, up from seven in 2020. All the stock record highs, the jump in IPOs, the crypto—they are just a handful of the milestones. And others were far more grim: Global Covid-19 cases, for instance, hit a daily record of 1.45 million on Monday, records show. Still, there is hope, with vaccine booster doses and new treatments rolling out. And investors are hanging on—for now. Write to Connor Smith at [email protected]



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