The stock market fell down several flights of stairs this year, the Dow Jones reaching its low point in March, down to 6,400 points from its all-time peak of 14,000 points in 2007. As summer waned and fall crept in, averages climbed. Economic reports on housing and other sectors improved. Investors were emboldened by rising commodity prices as well as the weakening dollar, which has boosted foreign investments in U.S. markets. In November, the Dow Jones hit a 13-month high, then beat that number at the beginning of December. Investors are still wary of markets that may be propped up by government spending, but now Wall Street has the aroma of optimism.
The maelstrom on Wall Street and in the housing market this year sucked down mortgage financing, home prices, and home sales, and many homeowners found themselves in debt and facing foreclosures. The home price index dropped 32 percent between 2006 and 2009, but in the latter part of the year, numbers became a little rosier. Home resales rose in October to their highest level in more than three years, according to the National Association of Realtors. Credit for the rebound goes to the plethora of cheap buys, like foreclosures, as well as a first-homeowners tax credit of $8,000, which was set to expire in October but has been extended into 2010 and now is available to certain current homeowners. The Federal Reserve has also sought to loosen up lending by keeping the benchmark interest rate close to zero.
Winning the Tour de France a record seven times from 1999 to 2005 didn't satisfy the appetite for competition in Lance Armstrong. After four years in retirement, the 37-year-old cancer survivor reentered professional cycling and embarked on the 2009 Tour de France on Team Astana, despite breaking his collarbone in March and setting back his training for the July race. Armstrong placed third overall in the grueling three-week race, blocking headwinds for his younger teammate Alberto Contador. Attention centered on the rivalry between Armstrong and Contador, who won this year's Tour as well as the 2007 Tour. Contador commented at the end of the race,"I have never had great admiration for him and I never will," to which Armstrong responded on Twitter, "If I were him I'd drop this drivel and start thanking his team. [Without] them he doesn't win." Armstrong will ride on a new team in 2010, Team Radioshack, and said the rivalry will give him a competitive edge.
Tennis in 2009 had one face: Roger Federer. Reaching all four Grand Slam finals, he became just the second player ever to recapture the No. 1 ranking the year after losing it. Then fans whispered that the 28-year-old Federer's skills were declining, just two victories shy of surpassing Pete Sampras for most career Grand Slam titles. But Federer tied the title record in June by winning his first French Open. That set the stage for capturing a record-setting 15th major at Wimbledon. There, in an epic four hours and 17 minute win against Andy Roddick, Federer became the Grand Slam king. The Wimbledon clash took 77 games: the longest total for a men's singles final in Grand Slam history.
In the aftermath of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's improbably large June 12 reelection victory came an improbably large response: Millions turned out in protest. "Nothing has been seen upon the streets of Tehran like this since the revolution right back in 1979," said BBC veteran John Simpson, whose camera crew was briefly arrested. Brutal reprisals by police and paramilitary units followed. Iranian officials tried to censor coverage of the demonstrations, but protesters used social networking sites like Twitter to feed real-time news of the violent crackdown around the globe, including the soon iconic imagery of protester Neda Agha-Soltan's murder. Theocratic officials certified the election results, but the protesters did not stopped rallying for change: Six months after the fraudulent election thousands of students braved tear gas and worse to march again on National Students Day Dec. 7.