Bitcoin, Bubbles and Tech: Google's Top Finance Searches of 2017By and
Interest in stocks soared as equity markets smashed records
China congress drew more attention from users than ever before
It was a year for bitcoin, technology stocks and the power consolidation of China’s Xi Jinping. Those were some of the most popular topics for people boning up on issues important to finance and business through Google searches in 2017.
While there was a spike of interest in the potential for Spain’s dissolution, the Catalonia crisis packed none of the wattage of searches about Brexit last year, the results showed. The data appearing below come from Alphabet Inc.’s Google, which compiled rankings for key words and terms used in an economic or markets context. Search interest is indexed on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 representing the peak popularity of a term. The findings also draw on Google Trends data.
There was a worldwide rise in the level of interest in shares among Googlers. Searches for “stocks” or “equities” -- coupled with words or terms such as “expensive,” “cheap” and “should I buy?" -- rose this year compared with those for other assets such as bonds and commodities. And no wonder: global equities have been breaking records. Users also ran more searches for stock bubbles and volatility, perhaps reflecting concern about the sustainability of the rally.
One of the hottest topics amid all the market chatter has been bitcoin’s stratospheric ascent, which has seen its price soar about 1,600 percent this year. Many people used Google to try to figure out when would be a good time to buy. Others appeared cautious -- the cryptocurrency made its debut on the top 25 list of keywords associated with “bubble.”
With a few exceptions, some heat has come out of real estate in major cities, and that was seen in the number of searches for property bubbles. People were particularly interested in Toronto’s housing market -- the Canadian city joined a list of the top 25 terms associated with the word “bubble”. UBS Group AG named Toronto as one of the cities most at risk of a housing bubble, and the city’s housing market has slumped over the past few months amid government rules and harsher mortgage guidelines aimed at curbing demand.
Xi on Stage
Leadership changes in China, the world’s second largest economy, have major implications for global markets, and this may have been on the minds of Googlers who tapped out the words “China congress.” The National Congress of the Communist Party of China happens every five years, and many around the globe were curious to see how President Xi Jinping would reshuffle the leadership. The level of interest topped previous peaks in 2012 and 2007.
Brexit has been making headlines all year, though web-search interest was muted compared with the spike during last year’s popular vote. Another independence referendum, October’s crisis in Catalonia, triggered a spike in web searches about the Spanish region -- but it amounted to a fraction of the level of Brexit interest during last year’s peak.
You can’t talk about the 2017 stock market without mentioning tech fever, specifically the FAANGs -- Facebook Inc., Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc., Netflix Inc. and Google’s owner, Alphabet Inc. They’re up about 50 percent this year on average -- more than double the gains of the record-breaking S&P 500 Index -- leaving some investors wondering if or when they will pop. Web searches for “FAANG” and “tech stocks” spiked during sharp selloffs of the sector in June and late November. Top related queries included “FAANG ETF.”
Actively managed funds are losing the battle to passively managed, index-tracking style choices -- in Google searches as elsewhere. The number of of people looking up “passive investment” exceeded the number searching for “active investment" by the biggest margin ever this year. It was a very different picture in 2004 -- the earliest year for which figures are available -- when active trumped passive in searches. Morgan Stanley says active managers could see revenue fall by 30 percent by 2019.
What’s Up in India?
After a shock move to withdraw most of the nation’s banknotes late in 2016, India’s economy struggled this year. Yet the country got a surprise boost with its sovereign credit-rating raised by Moody’s to its highest since 1988. Google users wanted to know how India’s economy stacked up against the rest of the world, about its relations with other major powers and about Indian views on global concerns.
— With assistance by Natalie Wong, and Erik Hertzberg