A New Interpretation of the Onset of the Great Depression

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Economic History Association / Cambridge University Press


Over the 1919–1929 period, fluctuations in the value of stock trading on the New York Stock Exchange exercised statistically significant and economically important impacts on the demand to hold cash balances. The marked post–1925 rise in the volume and value of stock trading led to a measurable increase in the transactions demand to hold cash balances, an increase in demand not recognized or seriously discussed by individuals inside or outside of the system. Had it been recognized, it is unlikely that the Fed would have persisted in its antispeculative policies in 1928–1929, policies associated with rises in interest rates and the beginnings of a downturn in real activity in the second quarter of 1929.