Monday, August 8, 2011

The view from my office window: watch out for falling stock brokers

It's another week of madness and mayhem on Wall Street and elsewhere as world markets continue to tumble. At a little before 2pm eastern time the Dow was down over 3.5 percent in value, a level that would get everyone's attention were it not simply another day of declines.
The German DAX, which lost two percent of its value every day last week out did itself by falling five percent today, falling below the 6,000 mark, which I'm sure is causing a bit of concern (understatement) in Europe. In fact, Die Welt is talking about a new crash – assuming Google's translation service is to be believed.

But while the news is certainly leading the NYT's website, the media seems to be calm about things overall. After all, this isn't the start of another Great Depression, is it? Who knows.

But a couple of years ago I was looking at the issue archives of a B2B magazine that was over 100 years old. I looked at some old issues to see how the editors of that magazine handled the news of the day that was not of direct concern to the magazine – events like the 1929 stock market crash and Pearl Harbor.

The magazine, being a weekly, did not directly talk about Pearl Harbor in its mid-December issue following the Japanese attack, but was already talking about the nation being at war and how this would effect the industry it was covering.

But the 1929 stock market crash was another matter altogether. It was not mentioned at all in the pages of the magazine. In fact, the only reference to the Great Depression in the editorial of the magazine was first seen in 1933. Prior to that there were plenty of articles that talked about weak economic conditions and the soon-to-appear recovery. By 1934, however, even the editors of the magazine had to admit something horrible was happening.

My point is that it is totally normal for much of the press to go on with its normal news coverage as if nothing is happening. But something is happening: the DAX has lost 20 percent of its value in the last month. 20 percent! Just for some perpective: the 1929 crash of October 28 and 29, 1929 was a drop of 24 percent.

2:20 EDT Update: Dow stocks of note – Bank of America has lost 18%, Caterpillar is down 7.6%, IBM is down 4.5%. All 30 stocks that make up the Dow are down with Coca-Cola doing best, down only 1%.