This Friday will mark the 20th anniversary of the 1987 stock market crash, and given the sleepy news cycle, expect a lot of anniversary coverage of that sunny autumn day when the U.S. stock market virtually shut down.
October 19, 1987 was my first day on the job as a television financial reporter. My assignment was to cover a speech by then-SEC chair David Ruder, who had only spent only a few more days in his position than I had in mine.
As his speech concluded at mid-morning that Black Monday, Ruder was rocked by word that the Dow was down more than 200 points. It was then that he unwisely suggested that perhaps "we should shut the market down," and the cascade began. In the days before Blackberrys and cell phones, it still took only about five minutes for investors to rush for the exits. The Dow ended the day with a loss of 22 percent.
With the 20th anniversary of that day nearing, and the Dow and S&P hovering near record highs, there will no doubt be plenty of comparisons between '87 and '07. And those hunting for them will find a few interesting parallels: a novice Fed Chairman at the helm, stocks at all time highs, a GOP president in the seventh year of his term, a weak dollar and talk of higher taxes on capital gains. In 1987, the opera "Nixon in China" was a big hit; this year, it was "Frost Nixon" bringing down the house on Broadway.
But that's where the similarities end. In 1987, the U.S. was the dog that wagged the tail of the global economy — all eyes were focused on U.S. economic data and stock prices. U.S. gross domestic product, or gross national product as it was called back then, constituted 42 percent of global GDP. In 2007, the U.S. share of the world pie has fallen to 28 percent.
For investors, this is not entirely a bad thing — it merely means that it's important to broaden your focus. As the very smart folks at Bridgewater Associates pointed out to clients this week, the current U.S.-centric focus on every monthly economic statistic out of Washington is, well, so very 1980s.
In 2007, they write, "It is important to realize that the rest of the world is not only doing pretty well, but is larger and increasing in importance relative to the U.S." That doesn't mean that the U.S. isn't growing, but so too is every country in the world, in what is an unprecedented global boom. Indeed, they go on to say that when you "consider the volume of stuff bought and produced, not just the local currency value of that stuff, emerging markets account for 50 percent of world GDP and 75 percent of recent world growth."
In other words, the tail is now increasingly wagging the dog — one big reason why the 30 export-driven companies that make up the Dow Jones Industrials are leading the market averages in 2007.
Sure, sometime in the future there may be another crash in equity prices on the magnitude of 1987. But it's a fair bet it won't be fully concentrated at the corner of Broad and Wall.
Terry Keenan is the anchor of "Cashin' In" and is a FOX News Channel business correspondent. Tune in Saturdays at 11:30 am ET, and find out what you need to know to make your money grow and keep what you already have!