Originally created 01/01/02

Top 10 national business stories of the year



It was a bad year for the stock market, an anemic year for the economy and a low mark for people who lost their jobs. Even before Sept. 11, the signs of recession loomed and then it was confirmed - the longest economic expansion on record had ended with a whimper in March.

While most business came to a standstill in the weeks after the World Trade Center attack, the White House successfully got Americans spending again and when Detroit smartly reduced interest rates on cars to zero, sales soared.

At year's end, the outlook was considerably brighter all around and expectations for a prosperous 2002 were looking good.

Here are the top 10 business stories of the year:

1. The 10-year economic boom that was the longest in U.S. history officially ended in March, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. The 120-month expansion beat out the old 106-month record from the 1960s.

2. The World Trade Center attack that struck the heart of the U.S. financial system forced Wall Street to close for four trading days, the longest shutdown since the Great Depression.

3. The slowing economy and terrorist strikes got Federal Reserve policy-makers to cut interest rates a record 11 times this year, sending short-term rates to a 40-year low. The Fed's action helped send mortgage interest rates below 6.5 percent for a week, a level not seen since Richard Nixon was in the White House.

4. The terrorist strikes prompted President Bush and Congress to approve a $15 billion rescue for the airlines in the first major show of federal largesse since the taxpayers were stuck with the $480 billion cost of the savings & loan bailout.

5. The Bush Justice Department agreed to settle with Microsoft after Clinton trust-busters spent three years fighting in court to break up the software colossus for muscling the competition. Only half the states agreed to the settlement terms that let Microsoft stay intact.

6. Although joblessness remained well below 6 percent that once was considered full employment, the $584-billion-a-year U.S. travel and tourism industry tanked in the wake of the terrorist strikes. Americans' desire to stay close to home not only prompted a drastic scale-back of airline schedules but resulted in layoffs of more than 100,000 employees. Restaurants and convention businesses were hammered, too.

7. American factories, service industries and farmers got 1 billion-plus potential customers when China agreed to open its markets to trade in return for being admitted to the World Trade Organization.

8. President Bush and Congress OK'd a $1.3 trillion tax cut that was the biggest in history and put $300-a-taxpayer rebates in most people's pockets just as the recession hit.

9. Zero-percent financing designed to "keep America rolling" after the terrorist strikes sent car and truck sales soaring to record levels in October.

10. Energy trader Enron's corporate flameout ranked as the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history, spawning a criminal probe and congressional hearings.

Enron's collapse also seemed certain to delay, if not derail the nation's $200 billion power industry in the wake of California's electricity meltdown that confronted customers with rolling blackouts and 100 percent spikes in their utility bills.