Framing the Global EconomyThe top business pictures of 2011
Ordinarily, business news isn’t much to look at. A behemoth hedge fund implodes, sucking billions into the ether, but even the Oliver Stone version of that scene would feature colorless quants in starched white shirts, pacing the trading floor or nervously staring at screens. Last year, the money shot was different. Many images of the big financial stories of 2011 are horrifying. Amid Greece’s spiraling crisis, a middle-aged man set himself ablaze after his bank refused to renegotiate his home and business loans. On the northeastern coast of Japan, a 33-foot-high tsunami—a Mothra from Mother Nature—unleashed its fury on the world’s thirdlargest economy, disrupting the global industrial supply chain.
In Libya, Arab Spring met petrodollars, as rebels put a bullet in the forehead of the tyrant who’d been sitting on the world’s eighth-biggest oil reserves. The blood and oil flowed. As if the eurozone crisis, popular uprisings across the Middle East, and Occupy Wall Street and its offshoots weren’t enough, business also had its R-rated moments. A spot quiz on a park bench in any major city might show that most civilians don’t know what IMF stands for, but they sure know who DSK is. The following portfolio, culled by Reuters’ Alexia Singh and Russell Boyce, shows a world in turmoil, and with each image reminds us that—for good or bad—we live in extraordinary economic times.
Triple-A Bomb A trader couldn’t hide his dismay in August as the Frankfurt Exchange took a big plunge as markets worldwide reacted to Standard & Poor’s downgrade of U.S. debt. Photograph by Kai Pfaffenbach
Re-Fi Madness A man in Thessaloniki was behind on his loans, so he asked his bank for help. They refused to renegotiate, so he stepped outside, doused himself with gasoline, and set himself ablaze. An alert cop saved his life, but who will save Greece? Its debts, along with those of the euro zone’s other peripheral states, could yet sink the common currency. Photograph by Nodas Stylianidis
Sea Change The 8.9 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in march destroyed roads, houses, and lives and temporarily stunned the nation’s economy, which was already shaky. The quake also spawned a horrific man-made catastrophe: the largest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, followed by the government’s inept and dangerous cover-up. Photographer: Mainichi Shimbun
Tapped Out Neither Rupert Murdoch nor his beloved editrix Rebekah Brooks broke into an abducted child’s voicemail, but they were pilloried for fostering the scandalous excesses of British tabloid culture at the hastily shuttered News of the World. Photographer: Olivia Harris
Assault and Pepper Spray The Occupy Wall Street movement spread across the country—and led to some ugly clashes. When a University of California Davis police officer pepper-sprayed students, the pundit class reacted with outrage (see Rachel Maddow’s condemnation on MSNBC), but also provided some creative justifications—Fox news’s Megyn Kelly said, "It’s a food product, essentially." Photographer: Brian Nuygen
The New Face of Freedom As Arab Spring revolts spread in March, a Libyan rebel celebrated Mohammar Gaddafi’s expulsion from Benghazi; Gaddafi was killed seven months later, and Libyans finally had some hope for prosperity. Oil production is now at 50% of the pre-conflict 1.6 million barrels per day and is rapidly rising. Photographer: Goran Tomasevic
Sticker-Shock and Awe As the conflict in Afghanistan dragged into its 10th year, a howitzer in Kandahar sent a shell toward an elusive enemy. With the U.S. withdrawal in Iraq complete, President Obama vowed to draw down forces in Afghanistan, where the military campaign is costing the U.S. Treasury an estimated $300 million a day. Photographer: Baz Ratner
Zucker Up Mark Zuckerberg went to Harvard in November to recruit for Facebook, which leads a still-burgeoning U.S. tech boom, despite a recent string of mediocre IPOs. Top engineering talent is so scarce that even billionaire CEOs have to work the crowd to keep ahead of the competition. Photographer: Brian Snyder
End of the Raj Galleon hedge fund founder Raj Rajaratnam was swarmed in may as he left Manhattan Federal Court, where he’d just been found guilty of 14 counts of insider trading. Prosecutors also ensnared Goldman Sachs board member Rajat Gupta, who had leaked word of Warren Buffett’s pending investment in the firm to Rajaratnam. Photographer: Lucas Jackson
Directionally ChallengedAngela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, who lead the two strongest economies in the euro zone, have found it hard to orchestrate a euro bailout. They often agree in public, but regularly undercut each other off-stage, leaving the markets grasping to understand how, when, and whether the euro zone can be saved.Photographer: Christian Hartmann
Jobs One Steve Jobs, who founded and a decade later re-birthed Apple (now the world’s most valuable company), died from complications of pancreatic cancer in October. As this Moscow tribute suggests, rarely has a business leader stirred so much devotion in customers, envy from competitors, and contempt from the legions he lashed with his acerbic tongue. Photographer: Denis Sinyakov
TSK, TSK, DSK on a Sunday in may, IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn was preparing to check out of his Manhattan hotel when a maid entered his room. Three days later DSK resigned from the IMF, and was under house arrest while he contested rape charges that were dropped in August. L’affaire changed the course of the IMF and the next French presidential election. Photographer: Richard Drew