As many economists and other financial professionals predicted, 2011 proved to be yet another rocky year in the business world. A series of new hits, ranging from the loss of a computer industry giant to natural disasters, struck the United States and the globe, ensuring that the economic uncertainty and instability that began in 2008 would not be disappearing any time soon. Here are just a few of the events that made headlines in 2011 and further hampered the outlook for business in America and around the world.
In August 2011, Standard and Poor's downgraded the United States' credit rating from "AAA" to "AA+." S&P blamed U.S. politicians for the move, maintaining that their inability to agree on how to reduce the federal budget deficit made the U.S. government appear less capable of meeting its financial obligations. News of the downgrade shocked and angered investors, as well as the general American populace. The downgrade also further weakened global perception of the U.S. economy, decreasing the likelihood of foreign investment.
In 2011, the Portuguese government admitted that it could not handle its debts and accepted a bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. It was the third euro zone nation to do this, as Ireland and Greece had already taken bailouts in 2010. Banks in Europe have restricted lending and financial players around the world worry that Spain's large economy will be the next to crumble. Since the European Union is a major trading partner of the United States, increasing trouble in the E.U. could easily translate into further economic problems for America.
On March 11, 2011, a massive earthquake and tsunami struck the eastern coast of Japan. The disaster not only took thousands of lives, but hindered business. Major Japanese automakers such as Honda and Toyota could not build cars in Japan or even ship parts to U.S. plants in the aftermath of the quake and tsunami. Thus, these top-performing companies suffered from a decline in inventory, were forced to sell their cars at higher prices, and as a result made fewer sales than usual.
Steve Jobs, co-founder and chairman of Apple, died on October 5, 2011. This was an enormous loss for the business world, as Jobs had long been recognized as a pioneer in the computing and technology industries and was the creator of a company that had managed to climb to new heights during a worldwide recession. Now that the man behind Macintosh computers, iTunes, iPods, iPhones, and iPads is gone, many question whether Apple will be able to maintain its previous levels of innovation and performance.
This movement began in September 2011, when protestors camped in New York's financial district to raise their voices against economic and social inequality, political corruption, and other similar issues. Occupy Wall Street camp sites have subsequently spread across America and into other countries. Since a number of protestors have made threats to inhibit world trade through the blocking of ports and other means, the Occupy Wall Street movement has set many people on edge.