This blog post was taken from the Astec Analytics Securities Lending Focus for April 2013.
In the early 18th century, the bursting of what became known as the South Sea Bubble broke many fortunes. The East India Company, riding high on the global dominance of the British Empire, issued huge quantities of highly priced stock to hungry investors who believed the company’s monopoly on South American trade could not fail.
Unfortunately, they were wrong, and their clamor for the shares blinded them to the fundamental weaknesses of the company. A sudden realization burst the bubble, and the shares became worthless almost overnight. I am not, of course, directly comparing certain countries’ debt issuance with that of incompetent 18th century industrialists, but there is a certain similarity in the desperation of investors seeking safe places to put their money and the resultant bubbles in prices such actions create.