The Shape Of Market Bubbles, With A Special Look At Gold

In my weekly updates of major worlds markets, one of the charts includes an overlay of the amazing bubble in the Shanghai Composite Index.

In this commentary we’ll build an overlay of four major bubbles across market history to see the variety of shapes a bubble can take. But first let’s take a long view of the index.

shanghai index

The next chart centres the Shanghai Composite. The peak is the centre of a 3000-market day timeline. Markets are open approximately 250 days per year, so this is a snapshot of a little over eight-and-a-half years with plenty of room left to track the future behaviour. The dramatic rise took place over about one year with a dramatic collapse of about the same duration. The symmetry of this these two years is astonishing and, as we’ll see, not necessarily characteristic of bubbles.

shanghai index

Now we’ll add the Nasdaq Tech Bubble. The Nasdaq was a bit less aggressive in the early stages of bubble formation, but the collapses are remarkably similar.

shanghai index

The next chart adds the Dow of the late Roaring Twenties and Crash of 1929. Here we see a more gradual bull market over the first five years with a major acceleration occurring in the 12-13 months prior to the peak. The 1929 Crash took the Dow to the legendary lows that the Nasdaq nearly equaled 70 years later. But the Dow decline lasted a good six months longer before beginning a sustained bear-market rally.

shanghai index

The Nikkei 225 bubble is one I periodically feature in an overlay with the S&P 500, where it looks amazingly steep as the central pattern of a 40+ year timeframe. But in the context of this series, the Nikkei peak on the last market day of 1989 was far more gradual in both the making and unwinding. The first year of the decline, however, was as savage as the other three.

shanghai index

Footnote: Is Gold a Bubble?

I’ve vacillated on this question in recent years. While the rise somewhat resembles the Nikkei leading up to the 1989 peak, Gold doesn’t come anywhere close to the bubble shape of the Nasdaq and Shanghai examples we’ve reviewed.

shanghai index


Is Gold cheap? No. Can it continue higher from here? Yes. Is it susceptible to a dramatic cliff dive? In the current environment of worldwide sovereign debt, I would be surprised to see that happen any time soon. In reality, however, only time will tell.

This post originally appeared on D Short.


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