Definition of 'Stock Market Crash'
A rapid and often unanticipated drop in stock prices. A stock market crash can be the result of major catastrophic events, economic crisis or the collapse of a long-term speculative bubble. Well-known U.S. stock market crashes include the market crash of 1929 and Black Monday (1987).
Investopedia explains 'Stock Market Crash'
Stock market crashes wipe out equity-investment values and are most harmful to those who rely on investment returns for retirement. Although the collapse of equity prices can occur over a day or a year, crashes are often followed by a recession or depression.
Historical Importance: The Stock Market Crash of 1929 devastated the economy and was a key factor in beginning the Great Depression. Dates: October 29, 1929
Also Known As: The Great Wall Street Crash of 1929; Black Tuesday Overview of the Stock Market Crash of 1929:
The end of World War I heralded a new era in the United States. It was an era of enthusiasm, confidence, and optimism. A time when inventions such as the airplane and radio made anything seem possible. A time when 19th century morals were set aside and flappers became the model of the new woman. A time when Prohibition renewed confidence in the productivity of the common man. It is in such times of optimism that people take their savings out from under their mattresses and out of banks and invest it. In the 1920s, many invested in the stock market. The Stock Market Boom
Although the stock market has the reputation of being a risky investment, it did not appear that way in the 1920s. With the mood of the country exuberant, the stock market seemed an infallible investment in the future. As more people invested in the stock market, stock prices began to rise. This was first noticeable in 1925. Stock prices then bobbed up and down throughout 1925 and 1926, followed by a strong upward trend in 1927. The strong bull market (when prices are rising in the stock market) enticed even more people to invest. And by 1928, a stock market boom had begun. The stock market boom changed the way investors viewed the stock market. No longer was the stock market for long-term investment. Rather, in 1928, the stock market had become a place where everyday people truly believed that they could become rich. Interest in the stock market reached a fevered pitch. Stocks had become the talk of every town. Discussions about stocks could be heard everywhere, from parties to barber shops. As newspapers reported stories of ordinary people - like chauffeurs, maids, and teachers - making millions off the stock market, the fervor to buy stocks grew exponentially. Although an increasing number of people wanted to buy stocks, not everyone had the money to do so. Buying on Margin
When someone did not have the money to pay the full price of stocks, they could buy stocks "on margin." Buying stocks on margin means that the buyer would put down some of his own money, but the rest he would borrow from a broker. In the 1920s, the buyer only had to put down 10 to 20 percent of his own money and thus borrowed 80 to 90 percent of the cost of the stock. Buying on margin could be very risky. If the price of stock fell lower than the loan amount, the broker would likely issue a "margin call," which means that the buyer must come up with the cash to pay back his loan immediately. In the 1920s, many speculators (people who hoped to make a lot of money on the stock market) bought stocks on margin. Confident in what seemed a never-ending rise in prices, many of these speculators neglected to seriously consider the risk they were taking. Signs of Trouble
By early 1929, people across the United States were scrambling to get into the stock market. The profits seemed so assured that even many companies placed money in the stock market. And even more problematically, some banks placed customers' money in the stock market (without their knowledge). With the stock market prices upward bound,...
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