June 7, 2009

Impressions of the week June 2-7, 1930

June 8, 1930 was a Sunday, so there is no Journal to summarize today. I'm going to take the opportunity for a little editorial commentary. (They did have both a Saturday edition of the Journal and a Saturday stock market session in 1930 – kind of surprising to me since we don't even have that in today's hyperactive daytrading era).

Up to now in writing this blog I've tried to faithfully summarize the Wall Street Journal from each day in 1930 without injecting too much of my own personal opinion and/or knowledge of how things turned out (aside from the occasional one-liner that I haven't been able to resist). Today I'm going to temporarily drop that bit of method acting, and give some of my impressions based on my first week of doing this.

Unnerving optimism – The general tone of the editorial commentary is pretty consistently and unnervingly optimistic. Unnerving both because I know how things turn out, and because of the rather similar positive commentary we're seeing today. I haven't seen enough yet to decide whether this optimism is a permanent bias (i.e. whether the Journal was the CNBC of its time), or whether it was reasonable based on what they knew at the time. For, at least in the week I've read so far, there was a:

Surprising amount of good news – and I'm talking actual good news, where both individual company and general economic numbers were improving month-to-month even though they were still down from 1929. This is a marked (and again kind of disturbing) contrast to today, where much of the good news consists of interpreting lousy numbers as good, either because they're “better than expected” or because they're still getting worse but at a slower rate (so-called second derivative stories).

Individual company impressions - Finally, I'm getting a complaint or two about the number of individual company reports that I'm including in the daily summary. I do have a reason for this, namely to try and get a feel for what kind of companies hold up better in this type of a downturn. So I'm going to sum up my impressions of this based on the first week and subject to change.

Industries doing well: Movies (Columbia Pictures, Fox), retail radios, shoes (Brown Shoe, Melville Shoe, Florsheim), food (National Dairy, biscuit companies), cigarettes (R.J. Reynolds).

Industries doing fair to mixed: Chain stores (Sears-Roebuck, Montgomery-Ward, Woolworth), cars (lower priced doing OK, higher priced suffering),

Industries doing poorly: Most commodities (steel, copper, coal, cotton, rubber), railroads.


  1. I am enjoying what you are doing. I look forward to reading your blog every day. What is that saying: "If you don't know your history your destined to repeat it..." or something like that...Thanks for your time.

    Jim Harris

  2. Thanks, Jim! Glad to hear you're enjoying it. It does seem like there was lots of stuff going on that particular year, but maybe every year feels like that ...


  3. Just discovered your blog today. Fascinating and a welcome addition to my news aggregator. Please keep it up.