Don’t be afraid of stocks: an examination of financial bubbles and their history

Business

Michael D’Angelo, Staff

Medium

Pictured above is the price index of Tulips from the infamous Tulip bubble burst of the 1600s in the Dutch Netherlands. The tulip bubble burst is the first ever recorded financial bubble in history.

Chances are if you checked the financial markets on Tuesday morning, indices were in the red. Many investors were concerned with a large federal stimulus package, the recent rise in commodities, and a rise in the 10-year U.S. Treasury Bond. Headlines regarding Michael Burry’s prediction about hyperinflation, Treasury Bonds, and WTI Crude Oil exploding to over $60 a barrel flooded the news on Monday and investors were alarmed. Tuesday’s open saw the tech heavy NASDAQ dropping nearly 3 percent. 

Amid growing concerns among investors, talks of a potential financial bubble, which occurs when asset prices become based on inconsistent and irrational views about the future, surfaced and Ray Dalio’s bubble indicator found 50 of the 1,000 biggest companies are in extreme bubbles. Although this is only half of the companies considered in a bubble from the Dot Com burst, investors should certainly take notice but not let news headlines deter from their equity investing.

Nonetheless, financial bubbles and investor psychology is still a fascinating topic. I recently became interested in the concept of financial bubbles after picking up a copy of the novel, Irrational Exuberance by Economist J.D. Shiller. In his book, Shiller accurately predicted the housing crisis and suggests monetary policy tools to ease the consequences of financial bubbles. The term “Irrational Exuberance” was coined by former Fed Chairman, Alan Greenspan, in the late 1980s. Below is the  breakdown and examination of the history of bubbles.

Financial bubbles have occurred all throughout history; In the 1630s, the Dutch went crazy for Tulip bulbs. The price soared from 1636 to 1637 and many went so far as selling their homes to purchase the simple garden plant. Eventually, the mass hysteria surrounding tulips faded and the price of tulips declined 90 percent.. 

Do you remember Isaac Newton, the pioneer of the concept of gravity? Well, Newton was burned hard and lost a fortune when the South Sea Company bubble burst in the 1720s. The South Sea Company was promised a monopoly by the British government to trade in South American colonies. British investors dived headfirst into the South Sea and the stock reached a high over 1,000 pounds and then came down after news of fraud and the monopoly fell out. 

Bubbles are no phenomena to the past as we have seen in the modern era. The Japanese real estate and equity markets exploded in the late 1980s and then came down.  The Dotcom bubble occurred in the United States in the late 1990s to early 2000s when investors dived into tech and internet stocks. The most recent bubble occurred with the U.S. housing market in the late 2000s to 2010s. Housing prices increased dramatically leading many investors to falsely believe the inability of the housing market to crash. The market declined dramatically, due to an excess of subprime mortgage loans, followed by the global recession due to mortgage securitization. 

History certainly has a knack of repeating itself and we could be seeing another bubble occur in any sector of the economy. With bubbles and investor mania creating a collapse of asset prices, the key to surviving the next bubble is to rely less on weekend worrying, where we, as retail investors or institutional investors, absorb weekly  news on the weekend leading to a belief in an economic doom at the start of a new week. To take from Peter Lynch, we should not get scared out of stocks. 

dangelom2@lasalle.edu

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