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New York is a global hub of international business and commerce. In 2012, New York City topped the first Global Economic Power Index, published by The Atlantic (to be differentiated from a namesake list published by the Martin Prosperity Institute), with cities ranked according to criteria reflecting their presence on similar lists as published by other entities. The city is a major center for banking and finance, retailing, world trade, transportation, tourism, real estate, new media as well as traditional media, advertising, legal services, accountancy, insurance, theater, fashion, and the arts in the United States; while Silicon Alley, metonymous for New York's broad-spectrum high technology sphere, continues to expand. The Port of New York and New Jersey is also a major economic engine, handling record cargo volume in the first half of 2014.

Many Fortune 500 corporations are headquartered in New York City, as are a large number of foreign corporations. One out of ten private sector jobs in the city is with a foreign company. New York City has been ranked first among cities across the globe in attracting capital, business, and tourists. This ability to attract foreign investment helped New York City top the FDi Magazine American Cities of the Future ranking for 2013.

Real estate is a major force in the city's economy, as the total value of all New York City property was assessed at US$914.8 billion for the 2015 fiscal year. The Time Warner Center is the property with the highest-listed market value in the city, at US$1.1 billion in 2006.

New York City is home to some of the nation's—and the world's—most valuable real estate. 450 Park Avenue was sold on July 2, 2007 for US$510 million, about $1,589 per square foot ($17,104/m²), breaking the barely month-old record for an American office building of $1,476 per square foot ($15,887/m²) set in the June 2007 sale of 660 Madison Avenue. According to Forbes, in 2014, Manhattan was home to six of the top ten zip codes in the United States by median housing price.

As of 2013, the global advertising agencies of Omnicom Group and Interpublic Group, both based in Manhattan, had combined annual revenues of approximately US$21 billion, reflecting New York City's role as the top global center for the advertising industry, which is metonymously referred to as "Madison Avenue". The city's fashion industry provides approximately 180,000 employees with $11 billion in annual wages.

Other important sectors include medical research and technology, non-profit institutions, and universities. Manufacturing accounts for a significant but declining share of employment, although the city's garment industry is showing a resurgence in Brooklyn. Food processing is a US$5 billion industry that employs more than 19,000 residents.

Chocolate is New York City's leading specialty-food export, with up to US$234 million worth of exports each year. Entrepreneurs were forming a "Chocolate District" in Brooklyn as of 2014,[282] while Godiva, one of the world's largest chocolatiers, continues to be headquartered in Manhattan.