What does it mean when the stock market crashes, as it did the week beginning October 5 2008, when the Dow fell from over 10,000 to below 8,500, a 15% decline in one week. It can mean a sudden loss of confidence in both the market and the underlying economy.
If confidence is not restored, it could contribute further to recession, as happened in 2000. Thatâ€™s because declining stock values means less wealth for consumers, whose purchases drive 70% of the economy. (See "What Are the Components of GDP?"). It also means less financing for new businesses, since the sale of stocks is one way that companies can get the funds needed to grow. (See â€How Do Stocks and Stock Investing Affect the U.S. Economy?")
Last, but certainly not least, a declining stock market could eventually lead to a slowdown in the global economy. That is because the U.S. economy provides 20% of the worldâ€™s output. (See "The Power of the U.S. Economy")
On the other hand, if it is not sustained, it could only serve as a warning sign of a loss of investor confidence. For example, in Q1 2007 the Dow fell over 600 points in a little over a week. However, it recovered during the year, and went on to a high of 14,000 in October. Although the crash did not cause a recession itself, it did signal that one may be coming.