Bright lights, big equities, as Wall Street eyes 2024 sequel for the Magnificent Seven

Planet Business: Steamboat Willie, the first female centibillionaire and this year’s tipped holiday destinations

Image of the week: Magnificent mega-stocks

Much-photographed New York Stock Exchange trader Peter Tuchman, nicknamed “Einstein”, marked the final day of stock market trading in 2023 the traditional way: posing for cameras in novelty 2024 glasses. Wall Street has reasons to be cheerful, with the S&P 500 swelling 25 per cent in what we must now hesitantly yet correctly refer to as “last year”.

The growth was uneven, however, with the figure boosted by the outsized performance of a select group of mega-stocks dubbed the “Magnificent Seven” – Google owner Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta, Microsoft, chipmaker Nvidia and Tesla.

In London, the FTSE 100 rose by a more modest 3.8 per cent, though there was plenty of serious upward momentum elsewhere in Europe, with Germany’s Dax closing the year with gains of more than 20 per cent, France’s Cac 40 up 16 per cent and the humble Iseq index of Irish shares surging 24 per cent, thanks in large part to a steep ascent for Ryanair.

After widespread predictions of gloom at the start of 2023, these mostly double-digit advances came as a big surprise to stock market watchers, many of whom predicted a recession-mired US economy would prompt equities ennui throughout the year.


On this no-one-knows-anything basis, it might not be the best of omens, then, that the mood as 2024 shuddered into action was one of cautious optimism. Note (and spoiler alert): in the film The Magnificent Seven, four of the seven are dead by the end.

In numbers: Centibillionaires

$100 billion

Fortune amassed by L’Oréal heiress and businesswoman Françoise Bettencourt Meyers after a rise in the cosmetics giant’s share price amid a Christmas season “Santa rally” on stock markets. Her mother, Liliane Bettencourt, was worth less than half this sum when she died in 2017.


The Frenchwoman, the richest woman in the world, duly became the first woman to hold centibillionaire status. Easy come, easy go: her wealth has since slipped slightly below the $100 billion mark, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.


Approximate stake held by Bettencourt Meyers (70) and her family in the 115-year-old L’Oréal empire, which was founded by her grandfather, Eugène Schueller, to make and sell the Oréale hair dye he invented.

Getting to know: Steamboat Willie

Steamboat Willie used to be best known as one of the first animated short films to feature Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse and the first to be distributed, in 1928, featuring both Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Now it has the dubious honour of becoming the first Disney property to enter the public domain.

As of January 1st, Steamboat Willie has lost its copyright protection in the US, where after several extensions, copyright law limits protection to either 70 years after the death of the author – which in this case would be 2042, as co-creator Ub Iwerks died in 1971 – or 95 years after release, whichever is the earlier.

As 95 years has now expired since its first distribution, the version of Mickey Mouse that appears in Steamboat Willie – which is not the same as more modern Mickeys – can now feature in the work of US “content creators” who fancy remixing the character’s whistle into dubstep, making him the star of horror games, using him to flog NFTs and so on. Is it big and clever? Is it original? No, but when has that ever stopped anyone?

The list: Holiday destinations 2024

The sun has made a new year’s resolution to completely hide itself from Ireland, the post-Christmas comedown is in train and thoughts turn naturally to plans for 2024. So which holiday destinations are likely to shimmer into fashion this year?

1. Albania: Once an inaccessible communist dictatorship, the Balkan country has been on a journey from backpackers’ cheap secret to mainstream holiday choice for people who have already been to Croatia.

2. France: Speaking of the mainstream, France will be the centre of attention in the summer when Paris hosts the Olympics.

3. Japan: Covid restrictions meant it missed out on its Olympic tourist bounce, but Japan is starting to enjoy something of a moment among long-haulers, with American Express naming it the fastest-growing destination for Gen-Z and millennial travellers.

4. Sicily: The White Lotus effect is well-reported by now – the HBO comedy-drama’s second season was set in the resort of Taormina – but more Irish people may holiday there this year thanks to the more practical inspiration of Aer Lingus deciding to reopen its pre-Covid summer route from Dublin to Catania.

5. Crete: For those who prefer their islands Aegean to Mediterranean, the airline will also begin flying to Cretan capital Heraklion from May 2nd. The countdown has begun.

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