Century of Stock Market History The Level of Stock Prices in Early 1972

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investor's portfolio of common stocks will represent a small cross-section of that immense and formidable institution known as the stock market. Prudence suggests that he have an adequate idea of stock-market history, in terms particularly of the major fluctuations in its price level and of the varying relationships between stock prices as a whole and their earnings and dividends. With this background he may be in a position to form some worthwhile judgment of the attractiveness or dangers of the level of the market as it presents itself at different times. By a coincidence, useful statistical data on prices, earnings, and dividends go back just 100 years, to 1871. (The material is not nearly as full or dependable in the first half-period as in the second, but it will serve.) In this chapter we shall present the figures, in highly condensed form, with two objects in view. The first is to show the general manner in which stocks have made their underlying advance through the many cycles of the past century. The second is to view the picture in terms of successive ten-year averages, not only of stock prices but of earnings and dividends as well, to bring out the varying relationship between the three important factors. With this wealth of material as a background we shall pass to a consideration of the level of stock prices at the beginning of 1972.

The long-term history of the stock market is summarized in two tables and a chart. Table 3-1 sets forth the low and high points of nineteen bear- and bull-market cycles in the past 100 years. We have used two indexes here. The first represents a combination of an early study by the Cowles Commission going back to 1870, which has been spliced on to and continued to date in the well-

TABLE 3-1 Major Stock-Market Swings Between 1871 and 1971

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