In 2007, a collapse in the subprime mortgage market in the United States precipitated a sharp global decline in housing starts and prices - as predicted. The year after, this led to a global credit crunch, the destabilization of the banking system, the demise of all the major investment banks in the USA, and recession throughout the industrialized world. The resultant drop in commodity and energy prices caused the slowdown to spread to developing countries as well.
IV. Notes on the Credit Crisis of 2007-9
The global crisis of 2007-9 was, actually, a confluence of unrelated problems on three continents. In the United States, investment banks were brought down by hyper-leveraged investments in ill-understood derivatives. As stock exchanges plummeted, the resulting devastation and wealth destruction spilled over into the real economy and caused a recession which is bound to be mild by historical standards.
Depending heavily on imported energy and exported goods, Europe's economy faced a marked slowdown as the region's single currency, the euro, appreciated strongly against all major currencies; as China, India, and other low-wage Asian countries became important exporters; as the price of energy products and oil skyrocketed; and as real estate bubbles burst in countries like Spain and Ireland. Additionally, European banks were heavily leveraged and indebted - far more than their counterparts across the Atlantic. Governments throughout the continent were forced to bail out one ailing institution after another, taxing further their limited counter-cyclical resources.
Simultaneously, in Asia, growth rates began to decelerate. Massive exposure to American debt, both public and private, served a vector of contagion. The weakening of traditional export markets affected adversely industries and employment. Stock exchanges tumbled.
The 2007-9 upheaval was so all-pervasive and so reminiscent of the beginnings of the Great Depression that it brought about a realignment and re-definition of the roles of the main economic actors: the state, the central banks, financial institutions of all stripes (both those regulated and in the "shadow banking" sector), the investment industries, and the various marketplaces (the stock exchanges, foremost).