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What is Black Monday?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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The term “Black Monday” is used to refer to several bleak days on the global financial market, one in 1929, another in 1987, and a third in 1997. As a general rule, if the year is not specifically referenced, people are usually talking about the Black Monday of 19 October 1987, in which the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost almost a quarter of its value in a single day, the largest single percentage loss in history. This event played a major role in the financial crisis on the 1980s, a financial tangle which had reverberating effects for decades in some regions of the world.

The original Black Monday in 1929 fell on 28 October, and it was one in a series of days involved in a catastrophic dive in stock values. Stock values started falling radically on “Black Thursday,” the 24th of October, and instead of recovering on Monday and Tuesday, they fell even further, catapulting the United States into the Great Depression.

In 1987, Black Monday experienced a loss of 508 points, then consisting of around 22.6% of the total value of the Dow, an index of stocks which is often used as a market indicator in the United States. Stocks did not just fall in the United States, however: they dropped all over the world in almost every financial market, triggering widespread economic problems. The precise cause of Black Monday has not been determined, although people suspect that inflation, questionable trading practices, and general market conditions all contributed to a panic which led to a dive in values.

Another Black Monday occurred in 1997, when the Dow lost 554 points, or around 7% of its total value. The largest point drop in history as of early 2009 occurred on a Monday in September 2008, when 777 points were lost in a single day. As these point values demonstrate, the overall value of the Dow Jones Industrial Average has climbed radically since it was first used in 1896. For example, the total value of the Dow at its peak in 1929 was 381 points!

People may also refer to 27 May 1935 as “Black Monday.” Although there were no disasters in the financial market on this date, the United States Supreme Court handed down a series of decisions which gutted several major provisions of the New Deal. This Black Monday had the immediate effect of creating a serious setback in numerous critical government programs which have since been credited with playing a huge role in the economic recovery of the United States. In the long term, this Black Monday also led an enraged President Roosevelt to pursue some radical measures to promote economic recovery, and to begin putting heavy pressure on the Supreme Court to get it to reverse these controversial decisions.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By accordion — On May 09, 2011

I know almost nothing about the stock market, but I remember learning about some of these dates in history class in high school. Judging from that, and what little I learned from movies like Wall Street (which I was told, at least, is pretty accurate in showing how trading happens sometimes), the who Dow Jones Index and the stock market in general seems like a false system.

People worry, then they sell stock and won't buy, and then the market gets worse, and then people worry more, and it continues; likewise, when people think things will get better they buy, prompting other people's confidence, and so on. There's no real standard to determine the worth of things, as far as I can see. I'm probably missing something important, but to me it seems like a ridiculous way to run our economy.

By aaaCookie — On May 08, 2011

I was going to ask why there are always Black Mondays, when I realized it must be because that's when the stock market begins again after two days' rest for people to figure out what they want to do to possibly improve their situations. It makes sense that if the market was looking bad on the previous Friday, too, that people would be hesitant to buy stock on the following Monday, potentially making the situation even worse.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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