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1999: Say goodbye to the 20th century

Hello euro, Y2K bug, SGX.

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The turn of the millennium brought with it a new international currency from Europe, alarm over computer bugs and the creation of the Singapore Exchange.

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THE turn of the millennium brought with it a new international currency from Europe, alarm over computer bugs and the creation of the Singapore Exchange.

The new euro had its first full day of circulation and trading as 1999 began, ushering a new era of economic union in the continent. The new currency jumped 2 per cent at its peak during its debut, helping to push up European stocks and bonds amid "euro euphoria".

The euro appeared to be a success, cementing its status as a major medium of exchange, joining the US dollar, the British pound and the Japanese yen as a key international monetary unit.

There was overwhelming optimism about the currency and the new era of economic union in Europe at the time, but the European sovereign credit crisis a decade later would call those beliefs into question.

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There was excitement around the world about the new millennium, although concerns about the Millennium, or Y2K, bug was causing widespread alarm.

The issue stemmed from the fact that many computer systems, especially the older ones, used only two digits to record years. When the year 2000 rolled around, that would cause systems to interpret the new year as 1900 instead of 2000, potentially causing all sorts of catastrophes. Many countries, including Singapore, even declared a bank holiday at the end of the year to give financial institutions time to address any bugs. The new year arrived with hardly any incident. Whether the widespread fear was overblown or had spurred the right amount of corrective action is anyone's guess.

Singapore also reformed its securities industry, and one of the chief pillars of those efforts was the merger of the Stock Exchange of Singapore and Simex into the new Singapore Exchange (SGX). SGX was the first integrated, demutualised exchange in the region run as a private company that answered to its shareholders instead of members.

The Business Times has been there to report and analyse the most significant news since 1976. Every week, this feature will showcase excerpts from the biggest stories for each year that the paper has been in operation. The full text of all the stories can be found online at bt.sg/bt_40

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