Black Monday fails to materialize as Dow rises Local brokers say calm prevailed

November 19, 1991|By Ted Shelsby and Timothy J. Mullaney

At 9:20 a.m. yesterday, the dozens of buttons on the phone on Mickey Misera's desk at Alex. Brown Inc. were just about all dark.

"In 1987, every light on this board was lit up" on the October day known as Black Monday, said Mr. Misera, an Alex. Brown managing director and head of listed equity trading. "This time, they're going to watch [stocks] open" before deciding whether or not to sell, he said.

When the market opened, it moved higher. The threat of a Monday crash -- replicating 1987, when a 100-point drop in the Dow on a Friday, Oct. 16, was followed by the 508-point debacle on Monday -- was over.

At trading desks like Alex. Brown's and in brokerage offices like PaineWebber Inc.'s suite on the top floor of the Equitable Bank Center a few blocks away, no one expected yesterday to be another Black Monday. Interest rates are too low, they said -- there's nowhere but stocks for money to go. People have been through this, they said -- and those who bought after the 1987 crash made too much money to be scared by last Friday.

"Everybody's in a good mood this morning," said Herb May, Mr. Misera's trading-desk colleague and a vice president of Alex. Brown. Wearing his bull and bear suspenders -- "for good luck," he said -- he was joking with clients on the phone before the opening.

At 9:25 a.m., PaineWebber office manager Richard A. Barbarita was pouring his first cup of coffee.

The office operations manager walked in to tell him that an individual client had ordered nearly 32,000 shares of PepsiCo Inc., worth about $900,000.

The market rose more than 20 points shortly after the 9:30 a.m. opening, but then the value of the December Standard and Poor's Index futures started drifting down.

"Now, we'll find out whether people are panicked, whether they'll buy them [stocks] on the way down," Mr. May said.

As it turned out, they weren't panicked. The Dow moved about a dozen points below its opening by 10:25 a.m., 55 minutes into the trading day, but it worked its way back to the break-even mark by late morning, setting the stage for an afternoon rally.

By the time the market closed, Mr. Barbarita said that buyers out numbered sellers 4-1 at his office. The local PaineWebber office processed nearly 150 orders yesterday, about 35 percent more than usual.

Clients were asking if there was any reason for them to be concerned, Mr. Barbarita said, but there were no signs of panic. They were not calling to say: "I got to sell now."

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