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Greenberg: Is Today's Market Really Different from 1999?

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The question du jour is whether today's market is eerily like 1999.

Those kind of parallels, of course, are dangerous. Markets that are perceived to be bubbles almost always go much further than anybody ever expects. And trying to overlay one bubble with another is like trying to rationalize what is already irrational.

Still, it's fun to speculate in a market in which speculation trumps truth.

With that in mind, I went back to the monthly "Against the Grain" column I wrote at the time for Fortune magazine -- and dusted off a few brain cells in an effort to compare then with now:

-- Then: headline on my column in January 1999: "Does Anyone Still Care about Value?" Now: Could say the same thing.

-- Then: headline in March 1999: "If You Really Want to Day Trade..." Now: Everybody day trades, including the institutions.

-- Then: headline in May 1999: "Why Would You Want to Go Public?" Now: even VCs are asking the question.

-- Then: headline n August 1999: "The Return of the Takeover Rumor." Now: Zillow/Trulia (Z)/(TRLA), anyone?

Scrolling through other stories from back then:

-- Then: everything that wasn't nailed down was going public. Now: everything that isn't nailed down is going public, but thanks to the 2012 JOBS Act (Jumpstart Our Business Startups), with less disclosure.

-- Then: the only way to raise cash for starting a business was venture capital. Now: who needs venture capital when you have crowd-funding?

-- Then: concerns that online shopping will kill the malls. Now: It hasn't yet, but it's chipping away.

-- Then: shorts were getting clobbered with the high-flyers. Now: same, except there are fewer shorts around.

-- Then: Yahoo (YHOO). Now: Google (GOOG).

-- Then, on April 1, 1999 Mark Cuban sold to Yahoo for $5.7 billion. Now: Cuban stars in the hit show Shark Tank, looking to find the next Mark Cuban.

Reality: It isn't different this time. Never is. Good luck trying to figure out how and when it ends. Even the geniuses never get that one right.

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Herb On TheStreet blog

Herb Greenberg, editor of Herb Greenberg's Reality Check, is a contributor to CNBC. He does not own shares, short or trade shares in an individual corporate security. He can be reached at


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