After its defeat in World War II, Japan recovered and became one of the fastest growing, strongest economies in the world. By the 1980s, it was commonly predicted that Japan's economy would soon exceed the size of the U.S. economy, and that the country's culture and language would come to dominate the global commerce. Land speculation helped fuel the Japanese economy, but the availability of cheap financing led companies to take on increasing levels of leverage in their real estate portfolios. From 1984 to 1989, the Nikkei stocks\ index soared from below 10,000 to nearly 39,000, only to plunge in the ensuing years when the bubbles burst. The Nikkei touched the 14,000 level in 1992, and the land of the rising sun settled into period of economic stagnation that still persists today.