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19 January, 2016 - 11:14

A stock market crash is often defined as a sharp dip in share prices of equities listed on the stock exchanges. In parallel with various economic factors, a reason for stock market crashes is also due to panic and investing public's loss of confidence. Often, stock market crashes end speculative economic bubbles.

There have been famous stock market crashes that have ended in the loss of billions of dollars and wealth destruction on a massive scale. An increasing number of people are involved in the stock market, especially since the social security and retirement plans are being increasingly privatized and linked to stocks and bonds and other elements of the market. There have been a number of famous stock market crashes like the Wall Street Crash of 1929, the stock market crash of 1973–4, the Black Monday crash of 1987, the Dot-com bubble of 2000, and the Stock Market Crash of 2008.

One of the most famous stock market crashes started October 24, 1929 on Black Thursday. The Dow Jones Industrial lost 50 % during this stock market crash. It was the beginning of the Great Depression. Another famous crash took place on October 19, 1987 – Black Monday. The crash began in Hong Kong and quickly spread around the world.

By the end of October, stock markets in Hong Kong had fallen 45.5 %%, Australia 41.8 %%, Spain 31 %%, the United Kingdom 26.4 %%, the United States 22.68 %%, and Canada 22.5 %%. Black Monday itself was the largest one-day percentage decline in stock market history – the Dow Jones fell by 22.6 %% in a day. The names “Black Monday” and “Black Tuesday” are also used for October 28–29, 1929, which followed Terrible Thursday—the starting day of the stock market crash in 1929.

The crash in 1987 raised some puzzles-–main news and events did not predict the catastrophe and visible reasons for the collapse were not identified. This event raised questions about many important assumptions of modern economics, namely, the theory of rational human conduct, the theory of market equilibrium and the efficient-market hypothesis. For some time after the crash, trading in stock exchanges worldwide was halted, since the exchange computers did not perform well owing to enormous quantity of trades being received at one time. This halt in trading allowed the Federal Reserve system and central banks of other countries to take measures to control the spreading of worldwide financial crisis. In the United States the SEC introduced several new measures of control into the stock market in an attempt to prevent a re-occurrence of the events of Black Monday.

Since the early 1990's, many of the largest exchanges have adopted electronic 'matching engines' to bring together buyers and sellers, replacing the open outcry system. Electronic trading now accounts for the majority of trading in many developed countries. Computer systems were upgraded in the stock exchanges to handle larger trading volumes in a more accurate and controlled manner. The SEC modified the margin requirements in an attempt to lower the volatility of common stocks, stock options and the futures market. The New York Stock Exchange and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange introduced the concept of a circuit breaker. The circuit breaker halts trading if the Dow declines a prescribed number of points for a prescribed amount of time. In February 2012, the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) introduced single-stock circuit breakers 1.

  • New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) circuit breakers 2
% drop time of drop close trading for
10 before 2 pm one hour halt
10 2 pm – 2:30 pm half-hour halt
10 after 2:30 pm market stays open
20 before 1 pm halt for two hours
20 1 pm – 2 pm halt for one hour
20 after 2 pm close for the day
30 any time during day close for the day
Figure 3.6
Robert Shiller's plot of the S&P Composite Real Price Index, Earnings, Dividends, and Interest Rates, from Irrational Exuberance, 2d ed. 3 In the preface to this edition, Shiller warns, "The stock market has not come down to historical levels: the price-earnings ratio as I define it in this book is still, at this writing [2005], in the mid-20s, far higher than the historical average... People still place too much confidence in the markets and have too strong a belief that paying attention to the gyrations in their investments will someday make them rich, and so they do not make conservative preparations for possible bad outcomes."
Figure 3.7
Price-Earnings ratios as a predictor of twenty-year returns based upon the plot by Robert Shiller (Figure 10.1, 4 source). The horizontal axis shows the real price-earnings ratio of the S&P Composite Stock Price Index as computed in Irrational Exuberance (inflation adjusted price divided by the prior ten-year mean of inflation-adjusted earnings). The vertical axis shows the geometric average real annual return on investing in the S&P Composite Stock Price Index, reinvesting dividends, and selling twenty years later. Data from different twenty year periods is color-coded as shown in the key. See also ten-year returns. Shiller states that this plot "confirms that long-term investors—investors who commit their money to an investment for ten full years—did do well when prices were low relative to earnings at the beginning of the ten years. Long-term investors would be well advised, individually, to lower their exposure to the stock market when it is high, as it has been recently, and get into the market when it is low." 5