Explaining Southern California's economy

The top 10 business stories of 2011

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10. JAPANESE EARTHQUAKE/TSUNAMI. The Japanese earthquake and tsunami, as well as the subsequent nuclear crisis, rocked the global manufacturing supply chain, affecting everyone from consumer electronics companies to carmakers. The tragedy caused great suffering and significant loss of life. As far as the business world goes, it also crippled the Japanese auto industry and allowed both General Motors and Ford to stage big comebacks.

Obama Makes A Statement To Press At White House

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9. AMERICAN GETS DOWNGRADED! Will America always be triple-A? Standard and Poor's didn't think so when, in August, it downgraded the USA from its long-held AAA credit rating to a mere AA+. Wait! Wasn't that the same S&P that gave AAA ratings to the subprime bonds that were backed by "toxic" housing assets during the financial crisis? Um, yeah. But no matter. The rating agency was reacting to the fight over the U.S. debt ceiling, evidence to many that Congress had become totally dysfunctional.

Amazon Introduces New Tablet At News Conference In New York

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8. THE iPAD KILLER ARRIVES! There was no tablet market until earlier this year — there was an Apple iPad market. But a worthy competitor to Apple's runaway success finally arrived in the form of the Amazon Kindle Fire. And at $199, the price was certainly right. Let the Great Tablet Battle begin!

LinkedIn Corp.'s IPO Awaited On Wall Street

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7. SOCIAL MEDIA GOES PUBLIC. The tech IPO market had been moribund until LinkedIn, the business-oriented social networking site, led the charge back in May. It rose as high as $122 per share before settling to earth. But it still looks to end the year with a market cap above $6 billion.

Former MF Global CEO Jon Corzine Testifies To House Hearing On Company's Bankruptcy

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6. CORZINE GOES DOWN. After being defeated for re-election as governor of New Jersey, Jon Corzine, formerly of Goldman Sachs, decided to try for one last big Wall Street score. He went to work for a sleepy brokerage, MF Global, and placed a big bet on European debt — just in time for the European debt crisis! Bankruptcy followed. Client money disappeared, Corzine was last seen testifying before Congress. The disgraced CEO may next been seen heading for jail.

Activists Demonstrate In Support Of Homeowners Facing Foreclosures

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5. FORECLOSURES FOREVER. In 2011, the housing crisis continued to grind on. But the big banks began to once again more forward on foreclosures, after sorting out the legal implications of the robo-signing scandal. The year ends with lenders attempting to move more than 2 million homes through the foreclosure process.

Anticipated Biography Of Steve Jobs Goes On Sale

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4. STEVE JOBS, RIP. October 5, 2011: the day America's greatest business and technology visionary since...Thomas Edison? Walt Disney? died after a battle with various types of cancer. Millions of people — probably billions — worldwide were affected by the news. In a testament to how convincingly Jobs had brought Apple back from the brink — from near-bankruptcy to, briefly, the world's biggest company — many learned of his death on a device he had effectively created.

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy (C) s

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3. THE EURO CLINGS TO LIFE. For years, the eurozone had been struggling with a debt crisis that seemed localized to Greece. But 2011 was the year it all fell apart, with the crisis spreading to Italy, Spain, and even roiling the economies of France, Germany, Great Britain, and the United States. German Chancellor Angela Merket and French President Nicholas Sarkozy formed a strange sort of marriage as they worked on a solution. For every victory there was a defeat. And at year's end, it was still unclear whether the single currency would survive.

Job Fair At Marlin Stadium Draws Many Seeking Employment

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2. THE JOBLESS RECOVERY. By November, U.S. unemployment at last fell below 9 percent. It was the worst recovery in employment from a recession since the Great Depression. And there was really no end in sight, as economist continued to predict slow growth in 2012. Some prospective workers, members of the long-term unemployment, simply gave up and quit looking.

Labor Union Protesters Marches To Zuccotti Park

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1. OCCUPY WALL STREET. What began as a little-noticed protest in a park in lower Manhattan exploded into a national movement in less than two months. It was the 99% versus the 1%, with the 99%er claiming that inequality in American could no longer be tolerated. By December, protesters had been ousted from public and private locations in major U.S. cities and the movement had begun to occupy college campuses. Will the movement have a future? 2012 will tell. But Occupy Wall Street was, hands down, the biggest business story of the year.

It may have been the most crazy, crazy, crazy year in business and economics since...well, since the Financial Crisis in 2008. In fact, it may have topped that surreal episode. We began the year with some economists expecting better than 3 percent GDP growth in the U.S. and ended it with anti-Wall Street protests from coast to coast, the eurozone on the ropes, and unemployment still hovering above 8 percent. 

Click through the slide show to get the blow-by-blow, from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami to the ongoing foreclosure crisis. May you live in interesting times? For everyone's sake, let's hope 2012 is rather less interesting.

Oh, wait...it's an election year! 

Methinks we're going to need helmets in 2012.