The One-Minute Expert

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The Independent Online
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The New York and London stock markets.

Why are they in the news?

They have the jitters. Market watchers on both sides of the Atlantic are watching more obsessively than ever in case there's a "one-day correction" next week.

Correction? Is something wrong?

Not if you're a Bull. In that case everything's fine, except that things might become bearish, which would be a disaster - unless you're a Bear, in which case it would be fine.

Enough bull. What's a correction?

It's a stock market crash, although people in the business don't like calling them crashes because the word brings back images of stockbrokers throwing themselves out of skyscraper windows like they did in 1929.

Suicide?

That's the story. It's probably apocryphal. We've never seen any evidence that people killed themselves in the granddaddy of one-day market corrections. Certainly lots of fortunes were ruined though.

And it could happen again?

Oh no. Stockbrokers have air-conditioned offices now so they're not allowed to open the windows.

Not that, a crash?

Possibly, yes. New York's Dow Jones dropped 120 points in 10 minutes last week. It bounced back, but could stumble, tumble, slip, slide, fall, free-fall or just plain crash at any moment. The big fear is that it might do the dead cat bounce.

Dead cats don't bounce.

Precisely.

So what causes markets to fall?

Pundits will claim that it depends on everything from political instability in Russia to interest rates at home. But the real reason is panic.

Everyone sells when there's a panic?

Except for the really smart players. They buy while prices are low and become as rich as the Rothschilds did after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

And are the markets sure to fall?

According to the Beckman Philosophy, yes.

What's the Beckman Philosophy?

Bob Beckman predicted the 1987 crash well before it happened. The philosophy jokingly named after him holds that what goes up must eventually come down. The real trick is predicting when.

Like earthquakes?

That's it. Everyone is waiting for the Big One in Los Angeles, but no one can say when it will hit. The same goes for the markets in New York and London.

What does New York have to do with London?

Nothing ... officially. They're supposed to be decoupled. They used to be wedded to each other and then people decided they were divorced.

A bit like Chuck and Di?

More like Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. The markets were going their separate ways, but last week they got back together.

A reconciliation. Sounds like good news.

Quite the opposite. First, they both moved down not up. Second, a lot of people want them to move in different directions so that they can hedge. If there's a correction on one you can still make money on the other.

Sounds just like Monte Carlo.

Bingo. New York and London are the world's two biggest casinos. You put your money down and wait for that little silver ball to stop ricocheting around the big wheel. Place your bets.

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