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Humankind cannot bear very much reality” TS Eliot, 4 Quartets, 1936

Who now remembers the stock market rally that followed 1929’s initial collapse? By November 1929, the US Dow Jones Index had fallen to 195 from its September high of 386. But by April it had rallied 52% to 297.
At the time, this seemed as sensational as the Dow’s recent rally, which took it up 74% from March 2009’s low of 6469, to peak a year later at 11258. And it occurred without any co-ordinated G-20 stimulus packages around the world. It just happened.
But when the famous English poet (and former bank clerk) TS Eliot published in 1936 the first part of his major work ‘The Four Quartets’, quoted above, his tone reflects the weariness of the subsequent Downtrend, not the euphoria felt during the Rebound.
The chart above captures the textbook path of a major financial crisis, as first described by Merrill Lynch’s guru, Bob Farrell. There is an initial Sharp Decline, as seen this time from September 2008. Then there is a Rebound. And finally, the Drawn-out Downtrend.
The chart also adds the ‘Paradigm of Loss’ model developed by famous psychologist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross. As first noted by the Financial Times last year, her model is potentially an excellent guide to the stages through which the current Crisis will likely pass.
The FT suggested that the world was slowly moving from Denial into Anger. Clearly some policy makers, and many bankers, still remain in the Denial phase. But the rise of the Tea Party protest movement in the USA, as well as the riots in Greece and elsewhere, supports the FT’s argument.
This emphasises that after 2 years, we are still towards the beginning of the Crisis. Only a relatively few consumers or companies have moved towards the Bargaining phase, to focus on saving rather than borrowing. Most are convinced any cutbacks will impact others, and not themselves.
Equally, we are nowhere near the Depression and Acceptance stages, which would indicate that the world was getting ready to move on to accept the world in its post-Crisis form.
The blog hopes that its analysis is wrong, and that in a year’s time it will be able to eat humble pie and admit it was too pessimistic. But if it was still running a major chemical business, it would by now have ensured that a detailed contingency plan was ready, in case its fears come true.