In the period running up to the 1987 crash, less than 1 percent of the analyst's recommendations had been to sell (and even during the 2000–2002 bear market, the average did not rise above 5%). In the run-up to 2000, the media amplified the general euphoria, with reports of rapidly rising share prices and the notion that large sums of money could be quickly earned in the so-called new economy stock market.
In one paper the authors draw an analogy with gambling. In normal times the market behaves like a game of roulette; the probabilities are known and largely independent of the investment decisions of the different players. In times of market stress, however, the game becomes more like poker (herding behavior takes over). The players now must give heavy weight to the psychology of other investors and how they are likely to react psychologically.
Another phenomenon—also from psychology—that works against an objective assessment is group thinking. As social animals, it is not easy to stick to an opinion that differs markedly from that of a majority of the group. An example with which one may be familiar is the reluctance to enter a restaurant that is empty; people generally prefer to have their opinion validated by those of others in the group.
The solution to both is investing in stock index funds and ETFs. While mutual funds might require a $1,000 minimum or more, index fund minimums tend to be lower (and ETFs are purchased for a share price that could be lower still). Two brokers, Fidelity and Charles Schwab, offer index funds with no minimum at all. Index funds also cure the diversification issue because they hold many different stocks within a single fund.
Finally, the other factor: risk tolerance. The stock market goes up and down, and if you’re prone to panicking when it does the latter, you’re better off investing slightly more conservatively, with a lighter allocation to stocks. Not sure? We have a risk tolerance quiz — and more information about how to make this decision — in our article about what to invest in.
While both terms - stock market and stock exchange - are used interchangeably, the latter term is generally a subset of the former. If one says that she trades in the stock market, it means that she buys and sells shares/equities on one (or more) of the stock exchange(s) that are part of the overall stock market. The leading stock exchanges in the U.S. include the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), Nasdaq, the Better Alternative Trading System (BATS). and the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE). These leading national exchanges, along with several other exchanges operating in the country, form the stock market of the U.S.
History has shown that the price of stocks and other assets is an important part of the dynamics of economic activity, and can influence or be an indicator of social mood. An economy where the stock market is on the rise is considered to be an up-and-coming economy. The stock market is often considered the primary indicator of a country's economic strength and development.
Regulation of margin requirements (by the Federal Reserve) was implemented after the Crash of 1929. Before that, speculators typically only needed to put up as little as 10 percent (or even less) of the total investment represented by the stocks purchased. Other rules may include the prohibition of free-riding: putting in an order to buy stocks without paying initially (there is normally a three-day grace period for delivery of the stock), but then selling them (before the three-days are up) and using part of the proceeds to make the original payment (assuming that the value of the stocks has not declined in the interim).