What caused Black Monday: The stock market crash of 1987?
Monday October 19,1987, is known as Black Monday. On that day, stockbrokers in New York, London, Hong Kong, Berlin, Tokyo and just about any other city with an exchange stared at the figures running across their displays with a growing sense of dread. A financial strut had buckled and the strain brought world markets tumbling down.
In the United States, sell orders piled upon sell orders as the Dow shed value of nearly 22%. There had been talk of the U.S. entering a bear cycle – the bulls had been running since 1982 – but the markets gave very little warning to the then-new Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. Greenspan hurried to slash interest rates and called upon banks to flood the system with liquidity. He had expected a drop in the value of the dollar due to an international tiff with the other G7 nations over the dollar’s value, but the seemingly worldwide financial meltdown came as an unpleasant surprise that Monday.
Exchanges also were busy trying to lock out program trading orders. The idea of using computer systems to engage in large-scale trading strategies was still relatively new to Wall Street and the consequences of a system capable of placing thousands of orders during a crash never had been tested. These computer programs automatically began to liquidate stocks as certain loss targets were hit, pushing prices lower. To the dismay of the exchanges, program trading led to a domino effect as the falling markets triggered more stop-loss orders. The frantic selling activated yet another round of stop-loss orders, which dragged markets into a downward spiral. Since the same programs also automatically turned off all buying, bids vanished all around the stock market at basically the same time. Full Story
The Crash of ’87, From the Wall Street Players Who Lived It
On Wall Street, when things decline, you tend to remember. When things decline a lot, you remember the date. Oct. 19, 1987, is one such example. The biggest single-day stock market collapse in history—a 23 percent drop—rendered once-trusted ideas useless and redefined the financial landscape for market professionals.
One of them was a rising Salomon Brothers bond salesman named Michael Lewis, who had yet to pen Liar’s Poker. “The markets in a panic are like a country during a coup, and seen in retrospect that is how they were that day,” he would later write of the chaos he witnessed. “One small group of people with its old, established way of looking at the world is hustled from its seat of power.”
Black Monday, as the day became known, is part of financial history’s fossil record, a divide between old and new markets. It was the first significant instance of computer-driven trading run amok. The nascent equity options market saw assumptions based on the Black-Scholes model overturned and replaced by a more complex world of volatility skews. And Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, just two months on the job, got to glimpse a market panic and sell his first “Greenspan Put” under the U.S. equity market. Full Story
Remembering the worst day in Wall Street history
It was a day so terrible, it will forever be known as Black Monday.
On October 19, 1987, the stock market collapsed. The Dow plunged an astonishing 22.6%, the biggest one-day percentage loss in history. Even bigger than the 1929 stock market crash, just before the Great Depression.
Nothing since Black Monday has come close. Not the selloff after the September 11 terror attacks or the 2008 financial crisis.
On that day in 1987, as the cameras rolled on the frenzied floor of the New York Stock Exchange, prices on the ticker tumbled, the panic spread, and the crash worsened. By the closing bell, the Dow stood at 1,738.74, down 508 points. Full Story