PARIS, France -- Key events that hit financial markets, companies and consumers in the year now ending:
The US Federal Reserve, or central bank, makes the first of several interest rate cuts.
Crude oil prices reach over $100 per barrel for the first time ever. Gold also rockets.
Bank of America buys Countrywide, the United States' biggest mortgage lender, which is struggling in a falling market.
The French bank Societe Generale says that a trader, Jerome Kerviel, lost 4.9 billion euros ($7.15 billion) through unauthorized trades.
Germany faces a huge tax evasion scandal after a prosecutor turns up evidence that hundreds of people were hiding assets in Liechtenstein.
The British government nationalizes Northern Rock, a major bank involved in risky property loans.
Gold tops $1,000 an ounce.
Bear Stearns becomes the first big US investment bank to get into trouble due to exposure to subprime, or risky, property loans. It is sold off in a deal engineered by the central bank.
The giant Swiss bank UBS announces massive losses due to risky investments.
Rising world food prices cause riots in Egypt and several sub-Saharan African countries.
High fuel prices cause protests by fisherman and truckers in several European countries.
The US unemployment rate rises by a half percentage point to 5.5 percent, the biggest leap in two decades.
Oil prices hit an all-time peak at just over $147 a barrel.
World trade talks collapse in Geneva.
A five-day war between Russia and Georgia brings new concerns for oil prices and the West's energy security.
The US administration takes over Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, giant institutions which underpin most of the country's property loans.
Lehman Brothers bank files for bankruptcy.
On September 15, the US stock market plunges by more than 4.4 percent. Markets also crash around the world.
The US government steps in to save American International Group, one of the world's biggest insurers. In Britain, Lloyds TSB bank swallows up HBOS, a competitor threatened with bankruptcy.
Fortis bank is bailed out by Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, while France and Belgium step in to save the Dexia bank.
The US administration draws up a $700-billion operation to mop up banks' "toxic" mortgage debt.
World stock markets crash again on October 10.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown proposes concerted action to save the world's banking system.
Iceland nationalizes its biggest banks amid a massive credit crunch due to borrowing abroad.
Democrat Barack Obama wins the US presidential election. The United States reports another huge jump in unemployment to 6.5 percent.
The Chinese government announces a huge economic stimulus plan, which briefly lifts world stock markets.
The International Monetary Fund warns of a global recession for 2009.
Details emerge of a worldwide financial pyramid scheme run by a top US financier, Bernard Madoff. Losses are expected to reach $50 billion.
European Union leaders draw up a concerted 200-billion euro ($260-billion) plan to hold off a recession.
After much hesitation, US President George W. Bush announces help for his country's two biggest auto companies.
Oil prices fall below $40 a barrel.
The Russian ruble drops to a three-year low against the dollar.