N NEW YORK last Friday, the stock market
sank like a stone. On Monday, the markets in Europe and Asia did the same thing. Meanwhile, the New York market smartly recovered. On Tuesday the markets abroad followed again, bobbing back up to the levels at which the week began. It's an illustration of the close resonance among these financial markets, and the futility of thinking--as governments sometimes pretend to think--that one country's business can be insulated from the currents running in the rest of the world. The extreme swings over those two days are also an accurate indication of the state of investors' nerves, here and abroad.
That's what explains the Granville phenomenon, in which one voice crying doom sets off an avalanche of selling. Not many investors and speculators will confess to taking Joseph Granville seriously. But a lot of them evidently thought that other people would take him seriously. Sometimes, when Mr. Granville forecasts disaster, nothing much happens. He has an effect only when people are already edgy. In New York, stock prices have been sliding steeply and almost continuously since the middle of the summer. In London, stocks began declining precipitously two weeks ago, when the government raised interest rates. France has been suffering a steady outflow of capital ever since the Socialist government was elected last spring.
To take the long view, it's all the aftermath of the great leap in oil prices two years ago. Throughout the industrial world, governments saw another great wave of oil-fueled inflation coming toward them. They all moved, some more successfully than others, to restrain that inflation, and, since the methods of restraint are not generally good for investment and profits, stock prices have done poorly. Perhaps the atmosphere will improve next year when, presumably, business and profits will expand with the tonic of the Reagan tax cuts. But this episode is a reminder that the effects of the last oil price increases are far from having been completely absorbed, and are still capable of creating trouble in the industrial countries' economies.