- The flu season struck the US with a vengeance, and was the worst since 2009. The epidemic went on to kill more people in the US than any flu epidemic had killed in decades. Upwards of 80,000 people died from this sickness, among them 180 children, and more than 700,000 people needed to be hospitalized. One reason was that the flu vaccine was less effective than usual. New York City was one of the areas that reported an unusually high number of cases of flu.
- On Wednesday, February 14, a gunman opened fire at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen students and staff members were shot to death, and 17 more were injured in the attack. A 19-year-old former student at Marjory Stoneman was identified by witnesses as the shooter and was arrested a short time after the shooting. The Parkland shooting was the deadliest at a high school in US history.
- President Trump announced tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum imports, launching the opening round of a very tense trade war with China. Three weeks later, tariffs were imposed on $60 billion in Chinese goods; the Dow responded to this move by falling sharply.
- President Trump accepted an invitation from Kim Jung-un, made through South Korea, to meet in May, the first glimmer of hope that the crisis between the two nations could be resolved diplomatically.
- China retaliated against America by placing 25% tariffs on 106 US products, including autos and soybeans.
- Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg was questioned by several US Senate committees after it was revealed that 87 million people had their private information accessed by Cambridge Analytica. This news sent Facebook’s stock down sharply.
- Following a series of small earthquakes, the US Geological Survey warned residents and tourists in Hawaii that the Kilauea volcano could erupt. Two days later it did, creating a spectacular sight. Stronger earthquakes a few days later forced Hawaii to declare a state of emergency and evacuate 1,700 residents.
- The national unemployment rate hit 3.9%, the lowest rate since 2000.
- California became the world’s fifth largest economy when the state’s GDP surpassed that of the UK.
- The US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Lab announced that Summit had become the world’s most powerful supercomputer. Summit works at warp speed; it can perform 200,000 trillion calculations per second.
- In a history-making meeting, President Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jung-un in Singapore.
- In mid-July, a series of large fires erupted in California, most in the north but some in the south. These fires spread quickly, and on August 4 they were declared a national disaster. A total of 8,434 fires scorched nearly 1.9 million acres, the largest area ever consumed by fire in one season. Nearly 19,000 buildings, most of them homes, were destroyed, and at least 52,000 people were forced to evacuate. Worse, at least 87 people died as a result of the disaster. According to CNN, people in New York City were able to see the smoke from the California wildfires. In late November, AccuWeather estimated that the total economic loss to the state would be $400 billion, making it the most expensive disaster in the history of the United States.
- President Trump called for the Russia investigation to end “right now,” urging Attorney General Jeff Sessions to halt the inquiry into alleged election meddling, and accusing special counsel Robert Muller of being “totally conflicted.”
- Apple became the first public company to have a market cap of $1 trillion; its shares made a new high when it topped $207.
- The US reimposed sanctions on Iran.
- The nation was rocked when nominee for Justice on the Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh was accused by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford of assault that she claimed took place some 36 years ago. Two other women came forward with related accusations. Kavanaugh had been considered a brilliant lawyer and a much-respected family man. Subsequently, the charges brought by those other two women were either dismissed or withdrawn, and some people had questions about Dr. Ford’s testimony, as well. Kavanaugh’s nomination was confirmed in a close vote, but strong emotions from both supporters and those opposed to his nomination lingered after the vote.
- Hurricane Florence, a powerful category 4 storm, dropped nearly 36 inches of rain and caused approximately $18 billion in damage in the Carolinas and nearby areas. Several days after being downgraded to a tropical storm, Florence regained hurricane strength and once again became a category 4 storm with winds of 140 MPH. After losing strength, Florence began to intensify yet again; fortunately, wind shear finally brought the storm to an end.
- Eleven people were killed and six others wounded in an anti-Semitic attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh. This was the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in US history. The assailant was injured before being captured by police. President Trump was one of the many officials who expressed outrage at the attack and offered condolences to the victims, as did numerous political leaders of both parties. Prime Minister Netanyahu said he was “heartbroken” and “outraged” by the attack.
- Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post and critic of the Saudi Government, was tortured and killed at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey,by a group of people said to be 15 Saudis. People in the US and abroad were shocked by the details of Khashoggi’s brutal assassination. Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest exporter of oil and one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East, denied that it was involved.
- The long-anticipated mid-term elections in the US were unusual in that both Democrats and Republicans suffered losses, yet both also were able to point to important gains and claim victory. Democrats picked up 40 seats, enough to give them control of the House of Representatives, and they also scored some victories on the state level. However, Republicans expanded their control of the Senate by winning two additional seats. The candidates that President Trump campaigned for scored victories, showing that he remained a formidable candidate for the 2020 election.
- Investors will remember 2018 for a long time, but very few of those memories will be pleasant. Most stocks were ending the year in the red, an even worse performance than in the bad old days of the 2008 financial crisis. As of December 24, the Dow was down approximately 9% for the year – the first time since 2008 that they finished with a loss. And the declines were not limited to the US – 93% of global assets are down for the year.
- President Trump’s dispute with Democrats about construction of a border wall came to a head late in the month. The President said that border security was desperately needed, and warned that he wouldn’t sign a spending bill until there is funding for one. The Democrats refused to agree to funding for a wall, and the stalemate has led to a partial shutdown of the government.