Is the Stock Market Really About to Pop? Why One 'Bubble' Legend Says No

The next Bubble
Getty Images
As the stock market continues its amazing run into record territory, it seems as if every day there's a new expert calling for a top -- often comparing the current state of the market to that of the late '90s, right before the Internet bubble popped. However, Dan Zanger, arguably the most successful investor during that period, disagrees.

"There is certainly some frothy behavior, with many stocks overpriced, while others are priced to perfection, " says Zanger. "However, this market is far from the 'bubble' behavior that we saw in 1998-2000."

Zanger knows what he's talking about, having cut his teeth in the markets, with various degrees of success, in the early '90s. But it wasn't until he became a student of William O'Neil's CAN SLIM method, which looks for stocks with strong fundamentals and technically significant chart patterns, that he catapulted to the rarefied heights of the investing world.

Beginning in June of 1998, Zanger spent 18 months turning $10,775 into $18 million -- an unofficial world record for stock market investing -- which translates into a mind-blowing 164,000 percent return (and yes, he has the tax returns to prove it).
Just five months later, as the bubble was getting ready to burst, that same account had grown to a massive $42 million dollars, a feat that Trader Monthly ranked among its 20 Greatest Trades of All Time.

Because of his unique experience, Zanger sees significant differences between the current market and the one he operated in during the bubble.

"Price movement in this market is nowhere near what we witnessed in the late '90s," he says. "Back then, you had stocks doubling in two days and some tripling in just five days. Most days, though, you were more likely to see many stocks running up $25 to $75 or stocks like Amazon going from $327 to $600 on the day of a 3-for-1 split. Today we see very few splits, and stocks are not racing up. It would be more accurate to say they are melting up slowly."

As impressive as his returns were during the bubble years, perhaps even more impressive is the fact that when the market crashed, unlike other high-flying investors who lost everything, Zanger saw the warning signs and was able to emerge from the carnage with a good chunk of his fortune intact. So what signs would he look for to determine if the market is nearing the end of a bubble phase?

"Well, excessive price-to-earnings ratios would be a good sign, for one," he says.
"For example, the S&P 500 (^GPSC) trading above a price-to-earnings ratio of 25 and stocks racing up in a manner similar to what we just saw with Twitter would qualify. This stock has behaved very much like an Internet stock from the bubble years, going from $41 to $75 in just a few weeks. But as I mentioned before, this same price action would more typically have happened in just a few days during a true bubble like 1998-2000."

In the years since the bubble burst, Zanger has remained involved in the markets, investing his own money and running, where he interacts with other investors on a regular basis, helping to teach them the rules and strategies that made him successful. And as for the chances of another true bubble in the markets, Zanger's skeptical -- at least in the short term.

"Much of a bubble's behavior is rooted in herd mentality and fueled by a new set of rookie investors who believe the market will never go down," he says. "I think there are far too many people today who remember the bubble bursting in 2000, so I doubt there are enough people with an undeniable belief in the market -- something that would be needed to make a bubble happen again. At least I hope that's the case."

No man is an island, or even a peninsula, so I encourage you to give me your feedback in the comments below. I also want to hear what other topics you'd like me to write about, so please let me know either by connecting with me on Twitter, or via email.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Portfolio Basics

What are stocks? Learn how to start investing.

View Course »

Basics of Diversification

Learn one of the fundamental concepts of building a portfolio.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:

I'm a pilot. I think I'm important.

January 10 2014 at 1:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Something wrong when the markets zoar this high while leaving the middle class and poor in the dirt. When this type of disparity happens between Main St and Wall St an eventual reversal must be coming.

January 09 2014 at 3:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Interesting finally a subject link that isn't dead. I guess the coder must of been picked up by ICE !

January 09 2014 at 3:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The stock market bubble was a result of the Mass Public finally able to purchase stocks through online websites...prior to that they would have to use the phone to place trades through a broker which many people didn't want to do. Once online trading was easy and something exciting because 80% of people never did it before. It was basically like a wolf in the sheep pen...experienced traders pumped and then dumped stocks on a daily basis and the inexperienced bought with their credit cards, only to lose everything.....those same experienced traders who made millions then moved on into the Housing Market...and we all know what happened then. The stock market will very very slowly continue up because people are broke...eventually big business will start spending money and the economy will go up...with our current administration being's going to be a while before we see any real excitement in the stock market world. Just save your money because once that day need to be liquid so you can buy good stocks...get in and get out.

January 09 2014 at 2:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

He's right, it's not like the late 90's bubble; it's more like the mid-2000's bubble. It's still an artificially inflated bubble. And it will pop, eventually. The exact date and time is impossible to predict, but the end result isn't.

January 09 2014 at 10:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to aicomputers2's comment

An artificially inflated bubble due to QE? Or just an artificially inflated bubble overall? Even though the latter might not exist as defined as an over-all encompassing true definition of what constitutes a bubble.

January 09 2014 at 11:03 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
4 replies to theycallmeroy3's comment


January 09 2014 at 9:55 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Spot on regarding heard mentality.... Now, you can also add the "Media" as a large part of that Heard Mentality!

January 09 2014 at 9:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

aol is such a left leaning hack site! lmao

January 09 2014 at 8:51 AM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply

i love the way hp does not count your vote if its not leaning left. lmao

January 09 2014 at 8:50 AM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply

If you want to keep getting your extended unemployment,,,,vote REPUBLICAN...
The Democrates needed 5 Republicans to get bill passed....


January 09 2014 at 7:12 AM Report abuse -7 rate up rate down Reply