General Thoughts

NYSE Yearly Price Data 1825-1915

I love history and I love stocks, so naturally I’m always interested when I come across something interesting on stock market history. Over the weekend I happened to stumble across an excel file I have saved in my archives that I labeled “NYSE Yearly Data 1825-1915”. As you can infer from the title, this file has all of the yearly closing prices from the New York Stock Exchange from 1825-1915. It is essentially the NYSE average going back nearly 200 years, starting with just 8 stocks that originally traded on the exchange.

The file has market weighted results as well as equal weighted results. Interestingly, the equal weighted results were much higher than the market weighted results. The summary below contains the market weighted results, as those more closely resemble the way the index is put together today.

I can’t remember where I found it originally, but I’ll keep looking for the source where I located it and put a link up here. By the way, some other great sites to find historical data are Schiller’s Irrational Exuberance page and the Standard and Poors website. I found it interesting so I thought I’d post it here, along with a few quick highlights.

These results are the market weighted results including dividends. Here is the full file: NYSE Yearly Data 1815-1925

Summary of the 111 year period:

  • 75 positive years
  • 36 negative years
  • Average annual return: 7.2%
  • Range (Worst Year to Best Year): -21% to 57%
  • Number of Years that finished -10% or worse: 16
  • Number of Years that finished -20% or worse: 3
  • Number of Years that finished 10% or better: 40
  • Number of Years that finished 20% or better: 18
  • Number of Years that finished 30% or better: 7

The best years:

  • 1879: +57%
  • 1862: +52%
  • 1863: +44%
  • 1843: +46%
  • 1885: +50%

The worst years:

  • 1839: -21%
  • 1907: -21%
  • 1857: -20%

Not bad for a period that had two major wars and multiple financial panics and depressions. I found it interesting to notice that two of the best years were 1862 and 1863 in the midst of the civil war. I was also very surprised to see that there were no really bad years (at least measured from January to December) with the worst being negative 21%. Clearly there were plenty of scary times, and there were certainly declines of probably 40-50%, but worst yearly closes were much less significant than the biggest yearly advances.

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