Sunday, May 9, 2010

Similarities Between the 2010 and 1997 Market Crashes

The 'Helicopter Economics Investing Guide' is meant to help educate people on how to make profitable investing choices in the current economic environment. We have coined this term to describe the current monetary and fiscal policies of the U.S. government, which involve unprecedented money printing. This is the official blog of the New York Investing meetup.

My blog post on May 4th mentioned the stock market was rolling over and on May 5th, I made the comparison between the problems in Europe today with those of Asia in 1997. I specifically pointed out that the Dow Jones Industrial Average had a one-day 7% drop because of the Asian crisis. The next day, the Dow was down 9.9% intraday on the current European crisis.

The Asian crisis in 1997, frequently referred to as the Asian contagion because it eventually spread from country to country, started with a currency crisis in Thailand. It soon engulfed most of East and South Asia. While Thailand's economy was small, it had been vibrant for many years. Its currency was overvalued though and this is where the problem began. Few people would characterize Greece as having a vibrant economy at the moment, though it is certainly represents a very minor part of overall eurozone economic activity. As the Asian situation in 1997 demonstrated, problems that show up in small countries can easily spread throughout an entire region and have global consequences.

So what did the EU leadership do? Despite this recent historical lesson, they decided to continually postpone dealing with the situation in Greece. Not surprisingly, contagion began to spread to the other PIIGS countries (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, and Spain), the euro tanked and this in now endangering the export based economies of currency union, and finally, world markets have sold off. Fortunately, EU authorities weren't faced with an outbreak of bubonic plague - otherwise we'd all be dead.

The U.S. stock market drop in 1997 mostly took place on October 27th.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 7715 on Friday the 24th. It then dropped 554 points on Monday, closing just off its low for the day. The loss was 7.2%. The bottom wasn't hit until intraday on the 28th however. At the low, the Dow had lost another 225 points and was trading at 6936. From top to bottom, the index was down 10.1% in a little over a day. On Thursday, May 6, 2010, the Dow at its intraday low was down 9.9% from the previous day's close. So far at least, the percent of the two drops is almost identical.

The 200-day moving average was an important barrier in 1997 and probably will be so in 2010 (at least for now).  The markets were trading way above the 200-day before the drop in 1997, as they have been recently. There was some piercing of the 200-day both times. It could happen again in the next few days, but the 200-day should be considered an important support level that the market will try to hold or return to quickly on a break.

The VIX, the volatility indicator, spiked into the high 40's in 1997. In 2010, it rose to 42.14. While the highs are somewhat different, the rallies of the VIX in both cases are very similar. In October 1997, the VIX had been slowly rising for almost two years from a low of around 10 and was trading around the 20 level. The low of 15.23 in 2010 was hit in early April. The VIX rose approximately 47 points from its value a few weeks earlier during both crashes.

The important question now of course is what is going to happen. The markets recovered rapidly in 1997, but this was during a long-term secular bull market. We are now in a low-term secular bear market and such buoyancy can't be assumed. The 1997 crash was not the end of the market's problems either. Regional financial crisis after all can easily cause problems for a couple of years. A deep, but short, bear market followed in August 1998 caused by the collapse of Long-Term Capital. Central banks reacted by pumping liquidity into the financial system and the tech stock blow-off followed. If they do that this time, and they most certainly will, expect a commodities blow-off instead.

Disclosure: None relevant.

Daryl Montgomery
Organizer, New York Investing meetup

This posting is editorial opinion. Like all other postings for this blog, there is no intention to endorse the purchase or sale of any security.

1 comment:

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