The 6 Craziest Stock Market Events from the 70s

The 1970s, known for its groovy outfits, bold styles, and memorable slang, was also a remarkable decade in the world of finance. This era was marked by rampant inflation, oil shocks, and numerous ups and downs that sent investors on a wild roller coaster ride. Here are five of the craziest stock market events from this unforgettable decade.

  • 1971 – Birth of NASDAQ

The establishment of the NASDAQ (National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations) in 1971 marked a significant revolution in the stock market. As the world’s first electronic stock market, NASDAQ transformed the financial world. It broke down traditional barriers, democratized the market, and paved the way for future technological innovations in finance.

Though initially mocked as the ‘over-the-counter market’, NASDAQ soon earned respect and attracted substantial trading volume. Today, it’s home to many of the world’s largest and most innovative tech companies, making its birth one of the standout events of the 70s.

  • 1973-1974 – The Stock Market Crash

Perhaps the most dramatic event in the 70s stock market was the 1973-1974 crash. Triggered by a combination of geopolitical tensions, the 1973 oil crisis, and soaring inflation, the market plummeted. Both the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) and the S&P 500 lost almost 50% of their value in less than two years, one of the most severe market downturns in history.

This period was a stark reminder of the market’s volatility and the far-reaching effects of geopolitical events on the global economy.

  • 1974 – The ERISA Act

In a landmark move, the U.S. Congress passed the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) in 1974. This act set minimum standards for retirement and health plans in private industry to provide protection for individuals in these plans.

The introduction of the ERISA act revolutionized the pension system and indirectly had a significant impact on the stock market. It led to a flood of retirement savings into the market, setting the stage for the future growth of mutual funds and other retirement investment vehicles.

  • 1977 – Interest Rate Rises

Interest rates play a crucial role in the stock market, and in 1977, the U.S. saw some of the highest interest rates in its history. In a bid to combat inflation, the Federal Reserve raised rates, leading to a rapid increase in borrowing costs. As rates rose, bonds became more attractive compared to stocks, causing a significant market downturn.

This period underscored the importance of central bank policies in guiding investor sentiment and shaping market trends.

  • 1979 – Gold Hits Record High

The 70s was a golden era for gold. Amid economic uncertainties, soaring inflation, and the Iranian revolution, investors flocked to gold as a safe haven. In 1979, gold prices skyrocketed, reaching an all-time high of $850 per ounce in January 1980.

This gold rush was a stark example of the market’s herd mentality and the role of precious metals as a hedge against inflation and geopolitical turmoil.

The 70s was an epoch of seismic shifts, both culturally and economically. While many remember this decade for its bold styles (which you can learn more about here) and unique slang (if you’re curious, visit, it was also a decade that shaped the financial markets.

From the birth of NASDAQ and the market crash of 73-74, to the dramatic interest rate hikes and the gold rush, these events left an indelible mark on the financial world. They serve as potent reminders of the market’s volatility, the power of innovation, and the ripple effects of geopolitical and economic policies. The lessons we learn from these events continue to inform our understanding of the stock market today.

  • The 1970 Penn Central Bankruptcy

The 70s witnessed one of the biggest corporate failures of the time, the Penn Central bankruptcy. Once a titan in the American railroad industry, Penn Central Transportation Company declared bankruptcy on June 21, 1970. The sudden collapse sent shockwaves through Wall Street and prompted a significant drop in the stock market. 

It was a stark reminder of how even the mightiest corporations could falter, impacting investors and the market at large.

Moreover, the Penn Central bankruptcy led to significant changes in American financial regulation. It highlighted the need for more transparent corporate reporting and stricter oversight, leading to several regulatory reforms. It was a painful but pivotal lesson in risk management and the importance of financial health for long-term corporate sustainability.