[FOUNTAIN]Bears get the blame when bulls stumbleThe bear became a symbolic animal with a negative image for the stock market in the early 18th century, a phenomenon due entirely to human beings. In 1701, a bearskin market opened in Boston; it quickly became a success. At times when the market was short of bear skins and prices rose, the clever merchants would sell the skins in advance, promising to hand over the product later. When prices rose, hunters were more eager to find bears and the prices soon fell back down to normal. The merchants would buy bear skins at a cheaper price for those who made advanced purchases at a higher price, and pocketed the difference.
This kept happening, and eventually the term “bear skin” came to mean “speculators expecting prices to fall.” Later the word “skin” was left out and the single word “bear” came to symbolize the fall of stock prices. In literature, the term “bear skin fixer” first appears in a pamphlet Daniel Defoe wrote in 1719, titled “The Anatomy of Exchange- Alley.”
However, the appearance of the bull occurred later. Around 1850, a newspaper on Wall Street, noticing that no animal could confront a bear, came up with the idea of a bull as its counterpart. The soaring horns were the perfect image to be used as a symbol of a rising market. Edward Chancellor writes in his book “Devil Take The Hindmost: A History Of Financial Speculation” that the word “bull” comes from the German word bullen, which connotes strength.
Unlike the bear, bulls have always been an animal people worshiped. In ancient Egypt, people worshipped the holy cow Apis, thinking it was the son of the sun god. The “Papyrus Apis” writes in detail of the ways to make a bull into a mummy. The Egyptians worship of bulls was introduced to the Hebrews, and is even mentioned in the Bible, when Moses left his home for a while and Aaron makes a god in the shape of a bull in gold. “Eat Not This Flesh: Food Avoidances From Prehistory to the Present” written by Frederick J. Simoons states that the bull became the object of worship because it is the symbol of power and has a supernatural image.
Recently, the Korean stock market has been bullish. Stock prices are at their highest in 10 years and 10 months, and the market is full of rosy expectations that stimulate investment. It would be hard to find a bear even if someone wanted to. It is just like the saying in the stock market that “The bear hides its tail when the bullhorns are straight up.” If stock prices happen to fall at this point, all the blame would be directed at innocent bears, but what could we do about it?
We’d just have to blame it on the fact that bulls can’t speak for themselves.
by Yi Jung-jae
The writer is a deputy business news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.