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Year's top biz story: Global economy

THE ACHINGLY SLOW global economic recovery was chosen as the top business story of the year by business editors at the Associated Press :

THE ACHINGLY SLOW global economic recovery was chosen as the top business story of the year by business editors at the Associated Press :

1. THE GLOBAL ECONOMY: Worldwide growth was slack again in 2012. The global economy grew just 3.3 percent, down from 3.8 percent in 2011 and 5.1 percent in 2010, the International Monetary Fund estimates. The U.S. economy, the world's largest, failed to gain traction. Five years after a recession seized the economy and more than three years after it ended, growth in the United States was only about 2 percent. Unemployment remained a high 7.7 percent.

2. U.S. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: Obama vaulted to a re-election victory over Mitt Romney, who had staked his bid on the weakest U.S. economic rebound since the Great Depression and had pledged to slash taxes. Unemployment under Obama topped 8 percent for 43 straight months.

3. OBAMA HEALTH-CARE PLAN UPHELD: The Supreme Court caught many by surprise when it backed Obama's health-care reform in a 5-4 vote. The law requires Americans to buy insurance or pay a tax, while subsidizing the needy. Hospitals and health insurers likely will benefit from 30 million new customers. Medical-device makers, though, will face a new sales tax.

4. THE FISCAL CLIFF: A dreaded package of tax increases and deep spending cuts to domestic and defense programs loom over the economy in the year's final months. Negotiators are struggliing to forge a budget deal to avert those measures.

5. FACEBOOK's IPO: Years of anticipation led to Facebook's initial public offering of stock - the hottest Internet IPO since Google's in 2004. Many of the billion or so users of the world's largest online social network craved a chance to buy in early. On the eve of its first trading day, Facebook's market value was $104 billion - more than's or McDonald's at the time. Yet the IPO bombed, marred by technical glitches with the Nasdaq exchange, allegations that a revenue gap wasn't publicly disclosed and complaints that the IPO had been priced too high.

6. HOUSING RECOVERY: After a six-year slump that sent more than 4 million homes into foreclosure and shrank home prices about one-third nationwide, the U.S. housing market began to recover in midyear. Modest job gains and record-low mortgage rates fueled demand. The supply of available homes sank. By June, prices began rising. And builders broke ground on the most homes in four years.

7. THE RETURN OF BIG OIL: Domestic crude-oil production had its biggest one-year gain since 1951, driven by output in North Dakota and Texas. The U.S. is on pace to pass Saudi Arabia as the world's top oil producer within two years. Credit goes to drilling improvements, like those that have fed a boom in domestic natural-gas production - horizontal drilling combined with hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

* 8. BANKS BEHAVING BADLY: It was a banner year for bank drama. JPMorgan Chase lost $6 billion in a complex series of trades. One of its bankers in London grew famous for big bets and became known as the "London whale." Morgan Stanley was accused of botching Facebook's IPO. An ex-banker trashed Goldman Sachs for putting profits ahead of customers and for mocking clients as "muppets." Barclays and UBS were fined for roles in manipulating a key global interest rate. And HSBC agreed to pay $1.9 billion to settle charges that it enabled money-laundering by Mexican drug traffickers.