The Shrinking U.S. Stock Market

Unofficially speaking, as measured by the number of domestic firms listed on U.S. stock exchanges, the U.S. stock market has shrunk to the lowest level on record in data that extends back to 1975.

In the chart above, we've overlaid the timing of the official periods of recession for the U.S. economy and also the entire span of the Dot-Com Stock Market Bubble, both of which are things that you would think would affect the number of publicly-traded firms in the U.S., but which turn out to not be so important.

Recessions, for example, are things that you would think would coincide with falling numbers of firms in the U.S. stock market, but for the five recessions shown in the chart, three occur when the number of listed firms was rising, while the other two just happen to fall in the middle of longer term declines in the number of publicly-traded companies in the U.S.

Meanwhile, you might reasonably think that the inflation phase of the Dot-Com Bubble from April 1997 through August 2000 would coincide with a rising number of U.S. firms listed on U.S. stock exchanges, but instead we see that the number of listed firms peaked more than a year before the Dot-Com Bubble even began to seriously inflate, where the number of public firms in the U.S. has typically fallen in each year since its peak in 1995-1996.

More remarkably, the rate at which U.S. firms delisted between the end of 1996 through 2003 was steady, spanning both the inflation and deflation phases of the Dot-Com Bubble. It's only after 2003 that the rate slowed, before falling more rapidly again in the period from 2008 through 2012.

After 2012, we have a break in the data series we used to construct the chart, which may account for the

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Ironman is the alias of the blogger at Political Calculations, a site that develops, applies and presents both established and cutting edge theory to the topics of investing, business and economics. We should acknowledge that Ironman is either formerly or currently, and quite possibly, simultaneously employed as some kind of engineer, researcher, analyst, rocket scientist, editor and perhaps as a teacher of some kind or another. The scary thing is that's not even close to being a full list of Ironman's professions and we should potentially acknowledge that Ironman may or may not be one person. We'll leave it to our readers to sort out which Ironman might behind any of the posts that do appear here or comments that appear elsewhere on the web!

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