The biggest story in the financial world this week started in China over the weekend and washed over just about every stock market in the world.

It was a sea of red from Shanghai to Frankfurt to New York as a new wave of concerns over slowing Chinese growth prompted a huge sell-off in China's stock market.

The blood-letting was so bad that an emergency circuit breaker designed to stop selling in times of panic was implemented twice this week. Both times, it wasn't enough, as when the market reopened, the sell-off continued.

And it wasn't just China. The loonie set another 12-year low. The Dow was down. Frankfurt was down. And the TSX was down — although by the low standards of the new year, Canada's benchmark exchange is actually one of the better-performing major indices this year, down only by about four per cent since Dec. 31.

The problem was so widespread in part because China had risen so high that it had so far to fall, but also because the country's economy is a big unknown. It's also been the engine of growth for more than a decade, and if that's coming to an end, investors are wondering what is going to pick up the slack.

CES 2016 ZEISS VR ONE

A woman shows off a virtual reality headset at CES, but one of the dominant themes of this year's technology bacchanal was the latest developments in self-driving cars. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

As Gregory Chin, a professor at York University told The Exchange in an interview this week, "China supplied somewhere between one quarter and one third of global growth coming out of the global financial crisis."

"With the Chinese economy slowing down, it means that the world also has to adjust to lower growth in China and that means lower exports for everyone."

That's bad news for an export and resource-dependent economy such as Canada's which explains the sea of red on stock markets this week.

NewLeaf ready for launch

But it wasn't all doom and gloom this week. By far our most popular story of the week was this one on Wednesday about a tiny start-up called NewLeaf that is going to start flying between seven Canadian cities for rock-bottom prices next month.

Yes, there are fees for just about everything from checked bags to priority boarding, but with one-way cross-country fares starting as low as $89, some say it could be the shakeup that Canada's air travel industry needs.

They're the latest in a long line of airlines that have tried and failed, but CEO Jim Young says he won't make the same mistakes, by making sure he stays focused on costs. "Ultra low-cost carriers are some of the most financially successful airlines in the world today," he said.

A little competition is healthy for all, so many are hoping the airline has some success. But ultimately don't expect NewLeaf to compete with Air Canada and WestJet any time soon.

"They'll take notice, but it's not as if these guys are going to be a massive thorn in the market," airline analyst Robert Kokonis told us this week.

Self-driving cars come home

The biggest technology conference of the year was in Vegas this week, as CES showed off the latest toys and gadgets. The usual assortment of virtual reality, wearable gizmos and smart devices were all shown off but one of the biggest themes this year was self-driving cars.

No longer just a fringe dream, mainstream automakers are getting involved and technology companies are showing off their contributions to the software that's going to steer the cars of the future.

Very quietly, an unexpected hub is emerging in the small Ontario city of Stratford, which has tech-enabled its grid in an attempt to make the city's streets the ideal place to test out self-driving cars in real world scenarios.

The CBC's Peter Armstrong was there for a test drive this week, the same week that Ontario legalized autonomous cars on its roads — just the second place in North America outside California where you can now legally drive one.

The city's mayor, Dan Mathieson says the city is hoping to get in on the ground floor of the future.

"We've used lines like we're the petri dish, we've told people that we're Goldilocks," he told us this week. "We're just the right size."

Other stuff

Those were just a few of our most read stories this week. Check out our landing page for more, and don't forget to follow us on Twitter to always stay up to date. In the mean time, here's a day by day list of our most-read stories from the past week.

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday