Why Markets Crash in October

ABC News’ Scott Mayerowitz reports: What is it with October?

Is it the changing seasons, the diminishing sunlight or maybe just a desire to be back on the beach?

Whatever it is, October has historically been a bad month for the stock market.

Today marks the anniversary of Black Thursday, the initial stock market crash in 1929 that eventually led to the Great Depression. (The two selloffs on Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 28, 1929 and Oct. 29, 1929, actually set off the panic.)

Then fast-forward to 1987. On Oct. 19 of that year, stock markets around the world crashed. On what became known as Black Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 22.6 percent of its value.

Now to this October, as if anyone needs reminding. This month, the Dow has lost about 2,500 points, or 23 percent of its value amid a global financial crisis and economic slowdown. And there's still a week of trading to go.

So what is it about October?

“That’s a good question. It’s been asked before. Believe me, I don’t think I have an answer for you," Charles Geisst, a finance professor at Manhattan College, told me today. “I think it’s mostly coincidence."

Geisst, who has written several books about the markets, including “100 Years of Wall Street,” “Wall Street: A History” and “Undue Influence: How the Wall Street Elite Puts the Financial System at Risk,” thinks the Great Depression stigma might now perpetuate itself in some traders’ minds.

“The best I can say for it is that since 1929, there’s been a myth about October. And I think it’s more myth than anything else,” he said. “Maybe it’s Halloween or something approaching. I’m not sure. But it’s nothing serious. No.”

Well maybe history had some clues for us. After all, October was the month that the Great Fire of Chicago broke out in 1871. Hundreds were killed and another 90,000 were left homeless.

October was also the month -- in 1881 – when that most famous Western gunfights occurred: the shootout at the O.K. Corral.

Not that either of those events relates to the stock market and its gyrations.

So we then might have to turn to 1901, when on this day a 63-year-old schoolteacher named Annie Edson Taylor became the first on record to take the plunge over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

Plunge? Falls? A bit of a stretch? Probably, but it’s the best we could do.

It should be noted that October doesn’t always mean bad news for the stock market.

Look back just one year, when on Oct. 9, 2007 the Dow hit its all-time high close of 14,164.53, more than 40 percent above today's level.

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