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What Is an Economic Bubble and How Does It Work, With Examples

One of the tricky things about bubbles is that they're hard to spot while you're in one. Only in hindsight, after they burst, do they become clear. Investors have to deal with a lot of bubbles, and there are advantages and disadvantages to having a bubble.

In the late 1990s, there was a bubble in stock valuations in the information technology industry, or what is called the dot-com bubble. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose fbs broker review from under 1,000 to over 5000 between 1995 and 2000. It then fell significantly in 2001 and 2002 as people lost faith in Internet companies and sold their investments.

Intrinsic value is what economists and professional investors believe the company will be worth in the future based on a detailed analysis of all aspects of the business. Stock market bubbles are generally seen as a negative occurrence, given that they can wipe out businesses and investor capital and cause higher rates of inflation and unemployment. Therefore, investors may place their capital into other areas of the financial markets, such as bonds or forex. The more people want a company’s stock, the higher the price will go, even if the product hasn’t changed. That’s what causes the stock market bubble on a small scale.

Unlike bigger companies, they don’t have enough cash on hand to stay afloat on their own. For example, the government stimulus money doled out to combat the economic effects of the coronavirus crisis. When people have money in their pockets, they usually spend it. It’s the frenzy that occurs when buyers have hope that stocks and the market will keep going up.

Because speculative demand, rather than intrinsic worth, fuels the inflated prices, the bubble eventually but inevitably pops, and massive sell-offs cause prices to decline, often quite dramatically. In most cases, in fact, a speculative bubble is followed by a spectacular crash in the securities in question. If you’re an investor, you plan to stay in the market longer than a day trader or a swing trader. Investors and swing traders are more vulnerable to stock market bubble bursts.

  1. It was characterized by excessive speculation in Internet-related companies.
  2. A stock market bubble is when share prices of stocks rapidly keep climbing to a point where they far exceed their intrinsic value or their earnings.
  3. When speculation works it can make someone a millionaire overnight.

The stock market plummeted and ushered in Japan’s Lost Decade of stagnant economic growth, which began in 1991. In both instances, closed-end country funds and experimental markets, stock prices clearly diverge from fundamental fp markets review values. However, these companies typically traded based on little more than enthusiasm. Most did not have sound business models and were burning through investor cash with no significant chance of returns.

Economic Bubbles

In response to a slump in 1986, the Japanese government launched a programme of monetary and financial stimulus to recharge the economy. Investors became so excited that share prices tripled between 1985 and 1989. However, the bubble burst when the Bank of Japan raised interest rates.

During the dot-com boom, people bought technology stocks at high prices—believing they could sell them at a higher price—until confidence was lost and a large market correction occurred. During a selloff, traders have as much incentive to hold on to their stocks as to unload them. This causes swelling to hit a natural floor and disrupts the negative feedback loop that characterizes the second stage of a stock market bubble.

Decline and Fall

Stock market and market bubbles, in particular, can lead to a more general economic bubble, in which a regional or national economy overall inflates at a dangerously fast clip. Many historians feel the U.S. was overheating in this way in the 1920s, aka "The Roaring Twenties"—leading to the meltdown of the Crash of 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression. Jessica is a published author and copywriter specializing in personal and investment finance. Her expertise is in financial product reviews and stock market education.

What Does a Bubble Mean in the Stock Market?

Spread bets and CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 71% of retail investor accounts lose money when spread betting and/or trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you understand how spread bets and CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money. In 1711, the South Sea Company was formed to take advantage of a monopoly on trade with the Spanish colonies of South America. Eager investors piled into the stock, with a guaranteed interest of 6%, after the company’s directors claimed that vast riches awaited. The bubble reached its height in 1720 after the UK Parliament accepted the company’s proposal to take over the national debt.


Speculation is a key driver of any stock market bubble and a clear warning sign. Investors buy stocks not just because they believe their underlying values will rise but also because they believe the stock market will remain liquid, enabling them to easily sell their stocks at any time. During stock market bubbles, stock prices becomes divorced from the underlying business fundamentals yet continue to rise based on the assumption that speculators will continue to buy.

A famous example is the tulip bubble in Holland during the 1630s. Rare tulip bulbs became the ultimate status symbol and were soon trading for as much as six times the average person’s salary. However, when the price became too high, auction rooms became deserted, the market ifc markets review lost its liquidity, and the so-called Tulipmania wilted. If the value of the U.S. stock market exceeds the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), it’s too expensive for him. The Shiller P/E Ratio looks at the overall market to determine when we’re in a stock market bubble.

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