Like every other decade, the last 10 years were filled with highs and lows. What may make this decade stand out more than others are the extremes.
Fresh off the dud that was the Y2K scare, the dot-com bubble hit its height with the takeover of Time Warner by AOL. The Internet-hype-fueled deal led humor website The Onion to predict the eventual buyout of General Motors by BlairWitchProject.com.
A decade later, GM declared bankruptcy and has been bailed out by the U.S. government. Meanwhile, Amazon.com, while never hitting one analyst’s infamous $400 per share prediction, is sitting north of $130, higher than it ever was during the tech bubble.
Between that, war, terrorism, natural disasters and environmental awareness made geopolitical headlines.
Now, the world is just starting to emerge from unprecedented turmoil in the financial sector, and, having weathered one of the worst global recessions ever, we take a look back.
In January 2000, ubiquitous Internet service provider AOL moved aggressively into content creation by agreeing to buy Time Warner for a staggering $164 billion. It was the largest corporate deal ever, engineered by Time Warner chief executive Gerry Levin (left) and AOL boss Steve Case.
Wall Street had already seen a flood of dot-com businesses looking to go public in the late 90s, and when they did issue IPOs, the staggering market capitalizations made some nebulous companies, like TheGlobe.com, temporary market heavyweights.
But the bubble burst, as investors pulled out of companies that promised cool offices and high burn rates and shifted into actual revenue and profit-generating businesses.
George W. Bush was sworn-in as the 43rd president of the United States in January, following a very narrow electoral vote victory over Al Gore and a controversial decision by the Supreme Court that ruled Bush won the White House even though he lost the popular vote.
Less than eight months, later the focus of his administration shifted to national security, after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 on New York and Washington, D.C.
Energy company Enron became the poster-child for corporate malfeasance when its off-the-books partnerships were exposed, revealing huge unrealized losses.
The company went bankrupt in December 2001 and its collapse led to criminal charges against its auditor Arthur Andersen in 2002. Arthur Andersen, one of the "big five" accounting firms, was found guilty and went out of business that same year.
Former Enron chief executive Ken Lay (right), along with former CEO Jeff Skilling, were found guilty of fraud and conspiracy in 2006. Lay died shortly after the verdict.
On March 20, 2003 U.S. missiles hit targets in Baghdad. Shortly afterwards, American, British, Australian and Polish troops launched a ground invasion of Iraq.
Allied forces took Baghdad in April and by July, a Governing Council appointed by the U.S. met for the first time. Later, the insurgency in Iraq intensified.
A boom in the Chinese economy boosted commodity prices through 2004. Oil hit a new high of $50 a barrel in September.
Higher energy prices raised concerns about the U.S. economy. But China's huge growth from its export-led economy resulted in lots of investing confidence around the globe, with the international initial public offering market seeing a big surge.
Natural disasters captured headlines throughout 2005. In late December 2004, an earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia caused a tsunami in the Indian Ocean that raised water levels as far away as the East Coast of the United States. The wave devastated areas closest to the epicenter, including parts of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand, causing nearly 300,000 deaths.
In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck Mississippi and Louisiana. Hundreds of thousands in New Orleans could not leave the city when key levees were breached nearly 80 percent of the city was under water.
Private equity firms were the big players of the year, snapping up distressed and strong businesses alike in major deals. Cheap debt helped fuel the boom.
The value of merger and acquisition activity jumped 34 percent to $2.5 trillion in 2006. More than 1,000 companies were taken private that year in deals worth more than $340 billion.
The credit crunch hit both homeowers and businesses in 2007 as global companies realized they had possible exposure to subprime mortgage lending and defaults in the United States.
As defaults and foreclosures increased, values of certain asset-backed securities -- derivatives based on those mortgages – declined or disappeared. In Britain in September, Northern Rock indicated the global trouble to come, as subprime exposure forced it to rely on the Bank of England for liquidity. The following year, it was taken over by the state.
From the growing impact of the housing bubble and credit crunch came the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, with unprecedented turmoil and government intervention in the global financial system.
In March, Bear Stearns collapsed under the pressure of huge leverage. Its share price plunged, lenders disappeared and in just days it was swallowed by JPMorgan Chase. In September, the crisis came to a head as the government was unable to orchestrate a bailout for Lehman Brothers, which then filed for bankruptcy. At the same time, Bank of America bought Merrill Lynch and the U.S. government took a huge stake in the struggling insurance giant AIG.
Voter frustration with the economy helped Barack Obama defeat John McCain, becoming the first African-American President of the United States.
After governments around the globe poured billions into the financial industry to prop up ailing banks and insurers, the industry faced populist and political backlash.
With unemployment rates rising, anger turned to bankers who earned millions in compensation and bonus packages, while taxpayer money kept those banks alive. At the G20 meeting in London, angry demonstrators converged on the Bank of England and later smashed windows of the Royal Bank of Scotland, now majority owned by the UK government.
The U.S. Congress approved a massive $787 billion dollar economic stimulus program, but unemployment grew to more than 10-percent. The Obama administration also forced GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy reorganization.
Eventually, the financial sector stabilized and some American banks repaid the government millions in taxpayer dollars that had been used to bail out those institutions.