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Popular Culture and the Stock Market at Trader’s Narrative

Popular Culture and the Stock Market

This is a guest post by Robert Prechter, CMT

The following article is adapted from a special report on “Popular Culture and the Stock Market” published by Robert Prechter, founder and CEO of the technical analysis and research firm Elliott Wave International. Although originally published in 1985, “Popular Culture and the Stock Market” is so timeless and relevant that USA Today covered its insights in a recent Nov. 2009 article.

For the rest of this revealing 50-page report, download it for free here.

Popular Culture and the Stock Market

Both a study of the stock market and a study of trends in popular attitudes support the conclusion that the movement of aggregate stock prices is a direct recording of mood and mood change within the investment community, and by extension, within the society at large. It is clear that extremes in popular cultural trends coincide with extremes in stock prices, since they peak and trough coincidentally in their reflection of the popular mood. The stock market is the best place to study mood change because it is the only field of mass behavior where specific, detailed, and voluminous numerical data exists. It was only with such data that R.N. Elliott was able to discover the Wave Principle, which reveals that mass mood changes are natural, rhythmic and precise. The stock market is literally a drawing of how the scales of mass mood are tipping. A decline indicates an increasing ‘negative’ mood on balance, and an advance indicates an increasing ‘positive’ mood on balance.

Trends in music, movies, fashion, literature, television, popular philosophy, sports, dance, mores, sexual identity, family life, campus activities, politics and poetry all reflect the prevailing mood, sometimes in subtle ways. Noticeable changes in slower-moving mediums such as the movie industry more readily reveal changes in larger degrees of trend, such as the Cycle. More sensitive mediums such as television change quickly enough to reflect changes in the Primary trends of popular mood. Intermediate and Minor trends are likely paralleled by current song hits, which can rush up and down the sales charts as people change moods. Of course, all of these media of expression are influenced by mood changes of all degrees. The net impression communicated is a result of the mix and dominance of the forces in all these areas at any given moment.


It has long been observed, casually, that the trends of hemlines and stock prices appear to be in lock step. Skirt heights rose to mini-skirt brevity in the 1920’s and in the 1960’s, peaking with stock prices both times. Floor length fashions appeared in the 1930’s and 1970’s (the Maxi), bottoming with stock prices. It is not unreasonable to hypothesize that a rise in both hemlines and stock prices reflects a general increase in friskiness and daring among the population, and a decline in both, a decrease. Because skirt lengths have limits (the floor and the upper thigh, respectively), the reaching of a limit would imply that a maximum of positive or negative mood had been achieved.


Five classic horror films were all produced in less than three short years. ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Dracula’ premiered in 1931, in the middle of the great bear market. ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ played in 1932, the bear market bottom year, and the only year that a horror film actor was ever granted an Oscar. ‘The Mummy’ and ‘King Kong’ hit the screen in 1933, on the double bottom. Ironically, Hollywood tried to introduce a new monster in 1935 during a bull market, but ‘Werewolf of London’ was a flop. When filmmakers tried again in 1941, in the depths of a bear market, ‘The Wolf Man’ was a smash hit. These are the classic horror films of all time, along with the new breed in the 1970’s, and they all sold big. The milder horror styles of bull market years and the extent of their popularity stand in stark contrast. Musicals, adventures, and comedies weave into the pattern as well.

Popular Music:

Pop music has been virtually in lock-step with the Dow Jones Industrial Average as well. The remainder of this report will focus on details of this phenomenon in order to clarify the extent to which the relationship (and, by extension, the others discussed above) exists.

As a 78-rpm record collector put it in a recent Wall Street Journal article, music reflects ‘every fiber of life’ in the U.S. The timing of the careers of dominant youth-oriented (since the young are quickest to adopt new fashions) pop musicians has been perfectly in line with the peaks and troughs in the stock market. At turns in prices (and therefore, mood), the dominant popular singers and groups have faded quickly into obscurity, to be replaced by styles which reflected the newly emerging mood.

The 1920’s bull market gave us hyper-fast dance music and jazz. The 1930’s bear years brought folk-music laments (’Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime?’), and mellow ballroom dance music. The 1932-1937 bull market brought lively ’swing’ music. 1937 ushered in the Andrews Sisters, who enjoyed their greatest success during the corrective years of 1937-1942 (’girl groups’ are a corrective wave phenomenon; more on that later). The 1940’s featured uptempo big band music which dominated until the market peaked in 1945-46. The ensuing late-1940’s stock market correction featured mellow love-ballad crooners, both male and female, whose style reflected the dampened public mood.

Learn what’s really behind trends in the stock market, music, fashion, movies and more… Read Robert Prechter’s Full 50-page Report, “Popular Culture and the Stock Market,” FREE.

Robert Prechter, Chartered Market Technician, is the founder and CEO of Elliott Wave International, author of Wall Street best-sellers Conquer the Crash and Elliott Wave Principle and editor of The Elliott Wave Theorist monthly market letter since 1979.

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2 Responses to “Popular Culture and the Stock Market”  

  1. 1 Steffen

    I have not yet downloaded this report, but its basic conclusion (”The stock market is literally a drawing of how the scales of mass mood are tipping”) seems very plausible to me.

    Some time ago, I had some similiar thoughts, which I would like to add here. I was looking mainly for similarities in the secular bear markets of the 30s, the 70s, and now.

    a) Mass entertainment. During times of hardship, people seem at least want entertainment and distraction and are willing to spend money on this.
    1930s: Big age of board games. “Monopoly” was released. Also spectator sports were immensely popular. So-called “Golden age” of Hollywood. Blockbusters like “Gone with the Wind” or “Snow White”. Disney made its breakthrough in that decade. At the end of this bear market (40s): The highly cynical and depressive genre of “Film noir”.
    1970s: Golden age of arcade video games and the first game consoles. Several immensely successful blockbusters released: “Star Wars”, “Jaws”, “E.T.”. Woody Allen had his break-through. Also age of the so-called “Disaster movie”.
    2000s: Online Gaming. MMORPGs, Browser games. (A friend works for a browser game company. They make money like mad, and are employing programmers like in the climax of the dot-com craze of 1999). “Lord of the Rings”. Harry Potter books and movies become incredibly popular (Storyline inspired by the public mood in Britain of the 30s)

    b) Political radicalization. As the bear market continues, the capitalistic system gets more and more into question. Political weirdos come up with increasing crazy and dangerous ideas. (Following examples are mainly from an european point of view)
    1930s: “Crisis of democracy” in Europe. Fascism gets more and more aggressive. Stalinism in Russia, ruthless collectivization. Civil war in Spain. Widespread aggressive agitation against “capitalistic plutocracy”.
    1970s: Emerging radical aggressive left-wing groups. “Red Army Fraction” in Germany assassinates several high-ranking political and business figures. Countless “Basis groups”, “Communes”, “Grassroots initiatives” waste their time in all-night discussions about “alternative society systems” and “urban guerilla” (which was parodied hilariously in Monty Pythons “Life of Brian”, released in 1979).
    2000s: Started with emerging Anti-globalization movement. Increasing weird ideas come up in internet forums (my personal observation). Aggressive youth unrest flares up regularly (France, Greece). Germany: Increasing nostalgia and romantization longing for the “good old times” of communist east germany (no joke, more and more people here seriously deny that the GDR was a dictatorship and claim that life under communist rule was better!)

    All of this should confirm that we are in the mid-late phase of a secular bear now.

    In the 30s and the 70s, the gordian knot was cut each by different measures: The secular bear market of the 30s ended with World War 2 and later the Korean War, the bear market of the 70s with Reagonomics and Thatcheronomics. My forecast for the next years: Sideway market. Increasing bleak outlook. Somewhen around 2012-15, some really radical political event will awaken the world, triggering the next secular bull market. (Of course, these are only my personal opinions, which are faulty and nothing more than speculation, gained from drawing analogies to past events.)

  2. 2 Babak

    Stefan, don’t forget the whole ‘terrorism’ thing. That started with the Cole bombing in October 2000 and well… here we are millions of lives later, hundreds of billions of dollars, etc. That’s probably the major social theme of our lives. As for popular culture, you can’t overlook the ‘Twilight’ (shudder) juggernaut since it has eclipsed Harry Potter.

    When you look at the very long term chart of the Dow you can see long protracted periods of range bound trading and then bull markets cycling about 20 years each. Since we’re not in a bull market, this range bound trading will last a few more years.

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