Past winners and losers.
Loser: The 1930s slump took a cruel toll on Jarrow town.
"Jarrow has been murdered," declared Ellen Wilkinson, Labour MP for the Tyneside town at the height of the Depression in the 1930s. Once the home of the Venerable Bede, Jarrow became one of the worst victims of industrial specialisation. In the late '20s the town's economy depended wholly on the local shipyards, owned by Sir Charles Palmer. Nine hundred ships with a total displacement of two million tons were launched from Jarrow in the years to 1933. But when the Depression forced Palmer to close the shipyards, seven out of 10 men were left unemployed.
In October 1936 the jobless of Jarrow took to the streets in protest at their plight. Two hundred men walked 300 miles to London in what became known as the Jarrow Hunger March. They took with them a petition to present to Parliament, signed by 12,000 people demanding jobs. So grim was the employment situation at the time that 200 skilled workers are said to have applied for a single job - and that was as a roadsweeper. Despite all of this, both the Trades and Labour Council and the Labour Party officially disapproved of the crusade. But the Conservative Government of Stanley Baldwin too was unsympathetic. The petition was thrown out of Parliament with the words of Walter Runciman, president of the Board of Trade: "Jarrow must work out its own salvation."
Fifty years later, in 1986, the Jarrow Crusade was repeated, not out of nostalgia but as a genuine protest against Thatcherite policies. The aim was to draw attention not to Jarrow but to the national plight of those out of work - to their feelings of hopelessness and rejection.
As it happened, the original Palmer shipbuilding yard never reopened, and, to make things worse, the Palmer ship repair dock further upstream at Hebburn was later mothballed. In 1986 male unemployment was 36%, an improvement on the 75% of the 1930s, but still disgraceful in contemporary terms.
Today Jarrow's South Tyneside region has the highest unemployment in the North: a general rate of 14.3% and nearly 23% of the male population. Regional organisations are campaigning bravely for new investment, but as one council employee says: "The picture is much the same."
Winner: Joe Kennedy was a crafty winner in the 1929 crash.
Joseph Patrick Kennedy, friends observed in the 1920s, had the ideal temperament for stock market speculation - a passion for facts, a complete lack of sentiment and a marvellous sense of timing. Red-headed and possessed with an Irish charm that won him friends in the right circles, he was nonetheless a lone wolf in his business dealings. This was his trump card. When the world went crazy buying stocks on Wall Street in 1928, he quietly sold out and made a fortune.
The Kennedy family was rescued from the slum end of Boston by Joseph Patrick's father, a man who made his name in the whisky trade and local politics. The young Kennedy then took up the flag, successfully bidding for the threatened Columbia Trust (in which his family had an interest) and thus becoming a bank president at 25. From there he went on into stock and property speculation, making a bundle in the 1926 Florida land crash. Soon he was heading three large film companies, while enjoying the added perquisite of the friendship of the broody-eyed Gloria Swanson.
In mid-1928 a nervous market tumbled, but as others sold, Kennedy bought - impervious as a rock. Confidence then returned, and as the new president, Herbert Hoover, promised "four more years of prosperity", the market rose again to new heights. Everyone plunged in. A remarkable one in every 100 Americans was in the market by the 1929 peak.
Meanwhile Kennedy contemplated the market's prospects as he relaxed on a Palm Beach holiday. He decided to get out. From late 1928 he quietly cashed up, reaping $5 million from his film stocks alone. "Only a fool holds out for the top dollar," he was heard to say.
The fools were unclothed on October 24 and 25 1929. Wave after wave of selling sent the market plummeting. Thousands were ruined. Right up until the last moment prominent corporate leaders had remained buoyant. During the long descent that followed, Kennedy surreptitiously sold the market short, reaping anything from a rumoured $1 million to an unlikely $15 million. Though viewed with mistrust by other traders, in later years his strong support for President Roosevelt won him the ambassadorship to Britain. It was the start of an incredible dynasty.