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In economics, a severe financial disturbance, such as widespread bank failures, feverish stock speculation followed by a market crash, or a climate of fear caused by economic crisis or anticipation of such a crisis. The term is applied only to the initial, violent stage of financial upheaval rather than the whole decline in the business cycle (seedepression and recession). Until the 19th century, economic fluctuations were largely connected with shortages of goods, market expansion, and speculation (as in the South Sea Bubble). Panics in the industrialized societies of the 19th–20th centuries have reflected the increasing complexity of advanced economies. The Panic of 1857 in the U.S. had its seeds in the railroads' defaulting on their bonds and in the decline in the value of railroad securities; its effects were complex, including not only the closing of many banks but also severe unemployment in the U.S. and a money-market panic in Europe. The Panic of 1873, which began with financial crises in Vienna and New York, marked the start of a long-term contraction in the world economy. The most infamous panic began with the U.S. stock-market crash of 1929 (seeGreat Depression).
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on panic, visit Britannica.com.