Descent into the financial vortex: a chronology of the crisis

PARIS, November 12, 2008 (AFP) – Key stages in the worldwide financial crisis, which is to be discussed at a summit in Washington on Saturday:

– February 2007: First signs of strain in the US market for “subprime” property loans, granted to people who in many cases have no real prospect of paying them back.

– August 2007: The European Central Bank steps in to bail out a little-known French investment fund which has run into trouble. It is to be the first of many such moves around the world, with greater sums involved each time.

– January 2008: The US Federal Reserve, or central bank, makes the first of several interest rate cuts.

– February: The British government nationalises Northern Rock, a major bank involved in risky property loans.

– March: Bear Stearns becomes the first big US investment bank to get into trouble due to subprime exposure. It is sold off in a deal engineered by the central bank.

– September: A dramatic series of new banking failures pushes the US government to take a role in the economy that would have been unthinkable since the Depression days of the