Stock Market Crash of 1987: Causes, Implications, and Lessons Learned


The Stock Market Crash of 1987, infamously known as Black Monday, led to a rapid and severe downturn in U.S. stock prices, significantly impacting global financial markets. This event was rooted in diverse economic factors, including intricate trade agreements, market overvaluation, and the emergence of computer-driven trading, resulting in a remarkable decline in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA). This comprehensive exploration dives into the multifaceted causes, subsequent ramifications, and the profound role of program trading in the crash, alongside the interventions initiated and their contemporary relevance.

Understanding the stock market crash of 1987

The Stock Market Crash of 1987, historically referred to as Black Monday, denotes the remarkable and swift descent of U.S. stock prices in October 1987. Originating within the United States, this financial catastrophe reverberated globally, marking one of the most iconic events in financial history. Notably, the focal point was the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), witnessing an unprecedented plunge of 508 points, equivalent to a staggering 22.6% drop on October 19, 1987 — ranking among the most substantial single-day percentage downturns in stock market records.

Speculated causes and underlying factors

The origins of the crash are nuanced and multifaceted. Certain analysts attribute the crash to a sequence of monetary and foreign trade agreements, notably the Plaza Accord and the subsequent Louvre Accord. These agreements aimed at managing the depreciation of the U.S. dollar and regulating trade imbalances. Simultaneously, this era witnessed the ascendancy of computer-driven trading models on Wall Street, potentially contributing to stock overvaluation preceding the crash and exacerbating the rapidity of the market’s decline.

Economic and trade agreements’ impact

Under the Plaza Accord of 1985, the Federal Reserve, in conjunction with major economies’ central banks, reached an agreement to devalue the U.S. dollar to counter the burgeoning trade deficits. By early 1987, this objective was accomplished, fostering a stock market boom in the mid-1980s as the trade gap between U.S. exports and imports stabilized. However, the subsequent Louvre Accord aimed to stabilize exchange rates post-Plaza Accord, leading to a revised balance of trade.

The Federal Reserve’s tighter monetary policy under the Louvre Accord precipitated a decline in the U.S. money supply, a surge in interest rates, and initiated the stock price slump by the third quarter of 1987.

Program trading’s role and post-crash actions

The stock market crash of 1987 shed light on the influence of financial innovation and technology, particularly in the realm of automated trading. Program trading, devoid of human intervention, automatically triggered buy or sell orders based on benchmark index or stock prices. This led to heightened market volatility as the models generated positive feedback, intensifying buy orders during upward market trends and sell orders during downturns.

In response to the crash, regulators initiated measures such as circuit breaker rules and precautions to alleviate the impact of trading irregularities. These interventions aimed to slow down trading activities, providing markets with more time to rectify potential issues in the future.

Evolution of trading mechanisms

Preceding the crash, a majority of trades were reliant on a relatively slower human-interaction process, unlike the high-speed trading observed in contemporary markets. Current-day markets witness exceptionally rapid trade executions, often occurring within milliseconds, notably due to the rise of high-frequency trading (HFT) which has escalated the velocity of market transactions. The instantaneous feedback loops among algorithms have the potential to rapidly amplify selling pressure, leading to substantial losses in mere moments.


Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks to consider.

  • Increased focus on market stabilization and risk management post-crash.
  • Enhanced understanding and regulations in automated trading systems.
  • Inherent risks in automated trading, potentially causing rapid market fluctuations.
  • Continued dependence on technology, raising concerns about system vulnerabilities.

Frequently asked questions

What were the immediate effects of the 1987 stock market crash?

The immediate effect was a substantial decline in stock prices, triggering a high level of market volatility and panic selling.

How did the crash impact global markets?

The crash not only affected the U.S. but also caused ripples in major stock markets worldwide, sparking concerns of prolonged economic instability.

What measures were taken after the crash to prevent similar events?

Regulators introduced circuit breakers and trading precautions to decelerate market impact amidst irregularities, establishing a safeguard against abrupt market declines.

Key takeaways

  • The stock market crash of 1987 caused a significant drop in U.S. stock prices, affecting global markets.
  • Economic factors, trade agreements, and automated trading played pivotal roles in the crash.
  • Post-crash regulations, including circuit breakers, aimed to control market irregularities.
  • The rise of high-frequency trading accelerated market transactions but raised concerns about rapid market fluctuations.
View Article Sources
  1. The Federal Reserve’s Response to the 1987 Market Crash (U.S. Historical) – Yale University
  2. The effect of the 1987 Stock Crash on international financial integration – Columbia University
  3. A Brief History of the 1987 Stock Market Crash with a Discussion of the Federal Reserve Response – Federal Reserve System
  4. Stock Market Crashes: Causes, Impacts, and Prevention – SuperMoney