If you said on January 1 that long-standing regimes in the Arab world would topple in the first half of 2011 AND that there'd be a massive earthquake and nuclear crisis in Japan AND that floods, tornadoes and wildfires would wreak havoc on a large portion of the United States, congratulations. You get a cookie.
Investors are on edge as they face a series of headwinds that just don't seem to be going away: a slowing U.S. recovery, European debt problems and the end of the Federal Reserve's bond-buying program.
Despite posting decent gains during Friday's session, stocks finished a choppy week of trading lower, as investors remained on edge in the wake of a massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan that have added to concerns over conflict in North Africa and the Middle East.
U.S. stocks rallied right out of the gate and continued to surge Tuesday, with all three major indexes gaining about 2% and finishing at their highest levels since May. Investors welcomed a surprise move by the Bank of Japan to cut its key lending rate, as well as improved data for the U.S. service sector.
Now that Japan has been knocked out by China as the world's second-biggest economy, the next question is: When will it dominate the U.S.? The Asian powerhouse could unseat the U.S. from the top spot as early as 2030, experts say, reconfirming China's growing influence on economies in every corner of the globe.
The Great Depression. Wall Street in 1987. Japan in 1997. Points of economic collapse are generally crystal clear in the rear-view mirror. Professional politicians in Japan have been telling stories for 20 years as to why they can prevent economic stagnation. In the US, the storytelling started in 2007. All the while, stock market and real-estate prices have repeatedly rallied to lower-highs, then collapsed again, to lower-lows.