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The New York Stock Market in the 1920s and 1930s: Did Stock Prices Move Together Too Much?

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  • Eugene N. White
  • Peter Rappoport

Abstract

In this paper, we re-examine the stock market of the 1920s and 1930s for evidence of a bubble, a 'fad' or 'herding' behavior by studying individual stock returns. One story often advanced for the boom of 1928 and 1929 is that it was driven by the entry into the market of largely uninformed investors, who followed the fortunes of and invested in 'favorite' stocks. The recent theoretical literature on how 'noise traders' perturb financial markets is consistent with this description. The result of this behavior would be a tendency for the favorite stocks' prices to move together more than would be predicted by their shared fundamentals. Our results suggest that there was excess comovement in returns even before the boom began, but comovement increased significantly during the boom and was a signal characteristic of the tumultuous market of the early 1930s. These results are thus consistent with the possibility that a fad or crowd psychology played a role in the rise of the market, its crash and subsequent volatility.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4627.

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Date of creation: Jan 1994
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Publication status: published as ANglo-American Financial Systems: Institutions and Markets in the Twentieth Century, ed. by Michael Bordo and Richard Sylla, Burr Ridge Irwin, 1995, pp . 299-316.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4627

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  1. Bulkley, George & Tonks, Ian, 1989. "Are U.K. Stock Prices Excessively Volatile? Trading Rules and Variance Bounds Tests," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 99(398), pages 1083-98, December.
  2. Mankiw, N.G. & Romer, D. & Shapiro, M.D., 1989. "Stock Market Forecastability And Volatility: A Statistical Appraisal," Papers 89-21, Michigan - Center for Research on Economic & Social Theory.
  3. Marsh, Terry A & Merton, Robert C, 1986. "Dividend Variability and Variance Bounds Tests for the Rationality ofStock Market Prices," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 483-98, June.
  4. Kleidon, Allan W, 1986. "Variance Bounds Tests and Stock Price Valuation Models," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(5), pages 953-1001, October.
  5. De Long, J Bradford & Andrei Shleifer & Lawrence H. Summers & Robert J. Waldmann, 1990. "Noise Trader Risk in Financial Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(4), pages 703-38, August.
  6. Hamilton, James D, 1986. "On Testing for Self-fulfilling Speculative Price Bubbles," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 27(3), pages 545-52, October.
  7. Hamilton, James D. & Whiteman, Charles H., 1985. "The observable implications of self-fulfilling expectations," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(3), pages 353-373, November.
  8. Pindyck, Robert S & Rotemberg, Julio J, 1993. "The Comovement of Stock Prices," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 108(4), pages 1073-1104, November.
  9. Flavin, Marjorie A, 1983. "Excess Volatility in the Financial Markets: A Reassessment of the Empirical Evidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(6), pages 929-56, December.
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