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Economic Bubbles: The History, Causes, and Effects

Historical Financial Bubbles Infographic - Featured Illustration

You don’t need to be an expert to understand what economic bubbles are and how they happen. The simplest definition is the rapid and unrealistic inflation of asset prices without any basis in the intrinsic value of the given asset.

Despite the fact that financial bubbles (also known as speculative bubbles) are not rare, people repeatedly fail to recognize speculative trading as it’s happening. Too often, those involved only identify these risky activities in the autopsy. Once the bubble bursts, it’s already too late.

One of the crucial reasons for this is that bubbles are often driven by strong emotions, blurring people’s ability to make rational decisions. When gung-ho traders who are willing to take huge risks start operating in that environment, you have a recipe for disaster. 

Investors’ greed (believing that someone will pay more for something than they paid themselves) is accompanied by strong feelings of euphoria (“wow, this investment will be so profitable, let’s buy!”), but also anxiety. Buyers go into denial when prices start to fall (“this is just a temporary reversal, my investment is long-term”). Then, finally, panic sets in, causing a domino effect: everyone starts to sell, ultimately leading to a crash. 

A bubble burst can have a devastating effect on the economy, even on a global scale. The most recent example is the Great Recession after the market crash in 2008. However, depending on the economic sector or industry, bubbles can also have some positive effects. 

Just consider the dot-com bubble, which forced the information technology industry to consolidate. Although people lost a lot of capital at the time, that money has since been invested many times over in infrastructure, software, servers, and databases. Pretty much every American house and business is now connected to the internet, which has changed how we live and work for good.

The best way to prevent an asset bubble from happening is strategic, common-sense investing. Unfortunately, humans don’t always act sensibly. Bearing that in mind, chances are economic bubbles will continue to occur in the future.

To help you notice these patterns early, we at Fortunly have created an infographic detailing how some of the biggest financial bubbles in history have formed and then burst. Check it out to make sure you don’t fall victim to the hype of “the next big thing.”

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