Exactly eight years ago today, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy. The bank’s collapse has become the defining moment for the financial crisis as central banks and governments rushed to bail out other troubled banks in the US and UK.
Since 2008, the global economy has been struggling to recover from the shock.
Gross domestic product, or economic growth, is still below the levels seen before the crisis. While there is growth, it’s been painfully lackluster in recent years. In the US, GDP is forecast to rise 2.4% in 2016, the same as in 2014 and 2015, according to the International Monetary Fund. The UK faces an even uncertain future since it voted to leave the European Union—GDP growth was 2.2% in 2015, compared to 2.6% in 2007.
Unemployment levels have fallen since the crash but there remains a particularly weak area of the labor market: wage growth.
This is not for want of trying by central banks. Policymakers unleashed huge stimulus packages to battle a global recession that would lift employment, wages and general prosperity. Bond-buying programs, known as quantitative easing, became the norm. When low interest rates weren’t enough to boost growth and inflation, Switzerland, Japan, the euro zone, Denmark, and Sweden started experimenting with negative interest rates.
But the biggest beneficiaries of the central banks’ monetary easing? Shareholders. Global stocks have surged as markets became flush with cash from the central banks’ stimulus programs.
However, bank stocks haven’t fared so well. After receiving bailouts many banks went through tough restructuring processes and needed to recapitalise. Lots of jobs were lost, whole divisions were cut, and huge fines had to be paid for the misconduct that sparked the crisis. This process is still going on in Europe—just look at the mess Deutsche Bank is in.
Right after the crisis, traders rushed into gold. The price of the traditional safe haven surged but in a sign that all is not well, gold prices are still very high. Just last month investors Bill Gross and Jeffrey Gundlach said gold was about the only asset worth buying these days.
Out of anger towards the banking system for the collapse, bitcoin was born—or so the theory goes (paywall). The digitally-mined “currency” boomed in 2013 and as transactions became possible without the involvement of central banks or governments. Though, it hasn’t fully taken off. A Goldman Sachs survey last year found that half of US millennials said they would never use bitcoin.