New evidence on the first financial bubble
The Mississippi Bubble, South Sea Bubble and the Dutch Windhandel of 1720 together represent the world's first global financial bubble. We hand-collect cross-sectional price data and investor account data from 1720 to test theories about market bubbles. Our tests suggest that innovation was a key driver of bubble expectations. We present evidence against the currently prevailing debt-for-equity conversion hypothesis and relate stock returns to innovations in Atlantic trade and insurance. We find evidence consistent with the innovation-driven bubble dynamics documented by Pastor and Veronesi (2009) for new economy stocks. Our evidence seems inconsistent with clientele-based theories that emphasize bubble-riding and short-sales restrictions.
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