How does the stock market affect the economy?

Movements in the stock market can have a profound economic impact on the economy and everyday people. A collapse in share prices has the potential to cause widespread economic disruption. Most famously, the stock market crash of 1929 was a key factor in causing the great depression of the 1930s. Yet, daily movements in the stock market can also have less impact on the economy than we might imagine. During the great recession of 2009-13, the stock market performed quite strongly. This rise in share prices was rather misleading to the state of the economy. Also, a fall in share prices doesn’t necessarily cause an economic downturn. There is a saying:

Stock markets have predicted 10 out of the last 3 recessions.

For example, the stock market crash of 1987, didn’t cause any lasting economic damage. (though it did influence monetary policy. UK cut interest rates in fear the stock market crash would cause a recession. Instead, low interest rates caused a boom.

Plummeting share prices can make headline news. But, how much should we worry when share prices fall? How does it impact on the average consumer? and how does it affect the economy?

Economic effects of the Stock Market

1. Wealth effect

The first impact is that people with shares will see a fall in their wealth. If the fall is significant it will affect their financial outlook. If they are losing money on shares they will be more hesitant to spend money; this can contribute to a fall in consumer spending. However, the effect should not be given too much importance. Often people who buy shares are prepared to lose money; their spending patterns are usually independent of share prices, especially for short term losses. The wealth effect is more prominent in the housing market. In Dec 2014, the value of the UK stock market was US $6.06 trillion so it has a big impact on wealth.

2. Effect on pensions

Anybody with a private pension or investment trust will be affected by the stock market, at least indirectly. Pension funds invest a significant part of their funds on the stock market. Therefore, if there is a serious fall in share prices, it reduces the value of pension funds. This means that future pension payouts will be lower. If share prices fall too much, pension funds can struggle to meet their promises. The important thing is the long term movements in the share prices. If share prices fall for a long time then it will definitely affect pension funds and future payouts.

3. Confidence

Often share price movements are reflections of what is happening in the economy. E.g. a fear of a recession and global slowdown could cause share prices to fall. The stock market itself can affect consumer confidence. Bad headlines of falling share prices are another factor which discourage people from spending. On its own it may not have much effect, but combined with falling house prices, share prices can be a discouraging factor. However, there are times when the stock market can appear out of step with the rest of the economy. In the depth of a recession, share prices may rise as investors look forward to a recovery two years in the future.

4. Investment

Falling share prices can hamper firms ability to raise finance on the stock market. Firms who are expanding and wish to borrow often do so by issuing more shares – it provides a low cost way of borrowing more money. However, with falling share prices it becomes much more difficult.

5. Bond market

A fall in the stock market makes other investments more attractive. People may move out of shares and into government bonds or gold. These investments offer a better return in times of uncertainty. Though sometimes the stock market could be falling over concerns in government bond markets (e.g. Euro fiscal crisis)

How does the stock market effect ordinary people?

Most people, who do not own shares, will be largely unaffected by short term movements in the stock market. However, ordinary workers are not completely unaffected by the stock market.

1. Pension funds. Many private pension funds will invest in the stock market. A substantial and prolonged fall in the stock market could lead to a fall in the value of their pension fund, and it could lead to lower pension payouts when they retire. Similarly, if the stock market does well, the value of pension funds could increase. Even if people don’t own shares, it is quite likely people with a private pension will have some connection to the stock market.

2. Business investment. The stock market could be a source of business investment, e.g. firms offering new shares to finance investment. This could lead to more jobs and growth. The stock market can be a source of private finance when bank finance is limited. However, the stock market is not usually the first source of finance. Most investment is usually financed through bank loans rather than share options. The stock market only plays a limited role in determining investment and jobs.

3. Short-termism. It could be argued workers and consumers can be adversely affected by the short-termism that the stock market encourages. Shareholders usually want bigger dividends. Therefore, firms listed on the stock market can feel under pressure to increase short-term profits. This can lead to cost cutting which affects workers (e.g. zero contract hours) or the firm may be more tempted to engage in collusive practises which push up prices for consumers. It has been argued that UK firms are more prone to short-termism because the stock market plays a bigger role in financing firms. In Germany, firms are more likely to be financed by long-term loans from banks. Typically, banks are more interested in the long-term success of firms and are willing to encourage more investment, rather than short-term profit maximisation.


34 thoughts on “How does the stock market affect the economy?

  1. Stock market is having quite a lot of effect of economy and its reversal is also try.
    Right now I am just a beginner and learning this stuff..

  2. I want to know the basic principle behind the working of hare market? What is the profit, company is getting from shares? Does the downfall in share price affect the overall performance of the company?

    1. Well yes the performance is hurt. If a stock company fails they shut down. If they raise they have more money to invest into workers. So yes it does but only those so high up into the stock exchange business will. Negatively or positively affect it, although you would play a small role like the average .0005% role. (made up percent) but still we can all invest and make good with out much affect.

  3. if you really know or knowledgeably enough on how to invest in the different market,you dont have to worry, you push your money to the fullest and high ROI. Big players in the marketsas wellas other investors are make there moneybut one thing dont sell your securities immediately hold it for a long time and sell it, its because evry now and then prices are increases.

  4. Am just starting to study about the stock markets and am enjoying, of course stock markets affect the economy in so many ways but as economists watcha doing about it??

  5. I’m still confused. I do not invest, my spending is not based on stock prices, the car I bought was not less expense because the makers share price is lower than they want,, I do not have a private or public pension. Interest rates have been basically zero for years, banks hord money to meet new banking regulations. What does a company’s share price have to do with the growth strategy? Do under valued company’s not hire people, do they not expand?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *