505.8 points down. Off 22%. $500 billion vaporized. Oct. 19, 1987. The end. Or, so it seemed.
“The 19th was a complete panic, but it was Oct. 20 that fascinated me. The day after the crash and what turned it around is the story I’ve always wanted to tell,” says Tony Vitale, producer of “Cancel Crash,” a TastyTrade documentary on the 1987 stock market crash, which premieres on FuturesMag.com’s AlphaTV on Oct. 18.
“I was on the NYSE floor as a specialist clerk on Oct. 20, 1987, the day after the crash. There was an eerie silence. No one knew what was going to happen. No one was trading. Nothing was happening. And then people started looking at Chicago. Why Chicago? This was the New York Stock Exchange, the center of the trading universe. What could Chicago do? This is the story of Cancel Crash. Telling this story is my dream,” Vitale says.
On Oct. 20, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board Options Exchange closed. Only the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) remained open. And all New York was watching as Chicago market maker Blair Hull made the decision to be the buyer of last resort, walking into the CBOT to purchase the Major Market Index contracts that others only wished to sell. “Cancel crash.”
We could breathe again, recalls Vitale. “It was like a big huge gasp of relief and thank God we’re saved. The market had been down 508 points the day before, but it came back 250 points that day.”
“Cancel Crash” tells the story of the tense 24 hours of the trading floors by the men who lived it in their own words. The Cancel Crash story tellers include Tom Sosnoff, CEO of Tastytrade.com, founder of Think or Swim, and floor trader in 1987; Leo Melamed, now chairman emeritus of the CME; Blair Hull; Bill Johnstone, of the NYSE, and others. Spokespeople for the CBOT, site of the famous first trade, declined to be interviewed for the film, Vitale says.
“[The crash] made us want to be smarter,” Sosnoff says. “I feel like I haven’t forgotten any of the lessons I learned. It shaped our careers all for the good.”
Looking back at that time and all the market events that have occurred since, Vitale says, “What happens in the markets is neither salvation, nor damnation. It’s just another cycle. It’s what life is about and that’s the story of Cancel Crash.” In addition to telling the historical tale of the trade that averted financial melt-down, the film also introduces the concept of skewness in the options market, Vitale adds.
The 1987 crash time period marked the advent of many changes, including the beginning of the end for floor trading; the rise of computer trading and the understanding that markets truly do cycle and there are opportunities to be found even in the most crushing of moments. October 1987 was the catalyst that shaped modern markets and Cancel Crash is the story to watch on Oct. 18, 2013. Past performance may not indicate the future, but understanding it can shape opportunities.