By Murray Gunn
The luxury British car maker Aston Martin has learned a hard lesson; namely, diamonds may be forever, but the market for $400,000 cars is not. A February 28 Guardian article confirms that since going public on the London Stock Exchange last October, Aston Martin’s shares have plummeted 40% amidst billions of dollars in losses. To be fair, some of the loss can be attributed to the company’s IPO costs, but we believe that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. The IPO, in and of itself, is a splendid signal that the credit cycle, and the positive social mood which fueled a massive expansion of credit and rising stock values, is undergoing a bearish shift. A fall in Aston Martin’s fortunes equally represents a fall out of favor of one of the most recognizable bull market icons — Bond, James Bond.
Since Ian Fleming wrote the caddish secret agent into being in 1952 amidst the postwar bull market, Bond’s popularity has risen and fallen with the Dow. (See chapter 10 of Socionomic Studies of Society and Culture here.) And since Bond drove onto the big screen in 1964’s “Goldfinger” in his epochal Silver Birch DB5, the character has been synonymous with the luxury car brand.
In 2005, during the great stock market boom and one year before the 2006 blockbuster hit “Casino Royale,” Aston Martin experienced its best year on record and turned a profit for the first time in its 90-year history. Optimism was so high that a June 26, 2007 Motortrend piece affirmed that the company’s new owners, who just bought it for $1 billion, planned to “recover a good chunk of their investment through an initial public offering in the London Stock Exchanges within five years.” Those plans were soon derailed by the 2007 stock market peak and ensuing global financial crisis. Aston’s IPO hopes went up in smoke, as a December 1, 2008 Telegraph article revealed, the car maker’s drastic cut of “one-third of its workforce amidst the extraordinary market condition we all now face.”
Flash ahead to 2018, the 2007-9 Great Recession firmly in the rearview amidst a record-shattering bull market, and Aston Martin decides to “remake the Classic James Bond DB5” at a sky-high price of $3.5 million (Put it on “M’s” tab!). Coincidentally, the car maker announced take two of its plans for an IPO. In an August 29 report titled “Live and Let Die,” I published the following long-term chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average which showed five instances when Aston Martin’s insolvency or deep financial stress coincided with troughs in the global economy and wrote:
“Now, with Aston Martin”s popularity and confidence so elevated that it is going public, the probability that the IPO coincides with a peak in the global economy is high. Expect financial markets to be shaken, as well as stirred, in the months ahead.”
Aston Martin Lagonda’s first day of trading as a public company was on October 3, 2018 the exact day of the top in the Dow. Fittingly, global James Bond Day was October 5. The Dow then declined by 19% into December, while Aston’s stock plunged 40%, no doubt making investors feel like Goldfinger did when Bond took away his gold.
The 25th installment of the James Bond franchise, “Bond 25,” is slated to hit theaters in 2020. Meanwhile, Aston Martin hinted of a partnership with “aerospace experts to develop a new model with takeoff and landing capabilities.” (September 20 USA Today). I can envision no better symbol of soaring optimism than a flying Aston in the next Bond film. But should the villain of a bear climb into the passenger side of the market as it is whisking through the clouds, investors are going to wish for a Q-worthy ejector button to cast it out.
Discover how the popularity of James Bond films has fluctuated with the Dow Jones Industrial Average in this free chapter from Socionomic Studies of Society and Culture. Read the chapter now.