A veteran stockbroker says the credit crunch blow to the New Zealand sharemarket hurts even more than the 1987 crash.
Ian Waddell, managing principal of Waddell Johnson McCarthy, said the first-day plunge 21 years ago was easier to stomach than the two weeks of "carnage" this year, especially when the fundamental strength of New Zealand companies was now so much greater.
"The carnage has gone on for days and it's making people [have] second thoughts. We've obviously had a lot of concerned calls today," Waddell said.
Most of the Wellington sharebroker's client base was aged over 55 and although they were mainly seasoned investors, many were worried.
Because returns had been positive for the past three years, the downturn was even harder for brokers, he said.
"It's very stressful because you feel a very close affinity with the customers and you're trying to help them. It knocks your confidence in what you've been thinking," said Waddell, 49.
Just like their clients, brokers had had a miserable start to the year. Commissions were down because of the relatively light volumes and the fact brokers were paid on a percentage of the total value of the transaction.
In 1987 the New Zealand crash was prolonged because of the fundamental weakness of the local property market. The same did not apply at present as balance sheets were strong, said Waddell, a sharebroker for the past 24 years.
Banks had been cautious about lending and projects on the margins had been supported only by finance companies, many of which had failed.
New Zealand companies had been on the sidelines of the 2001 dotcom collapse, but this too had a devastating ripple effect here and had been another stressful period for brokers.
Like other brokers, Waddell believes the market is within days of being oversold but needs a circuit-breaker to change sentiment.
"I just don't know what that trigger is for it to come back," he said.
It could come from huge amounts of cash sitting on the sidelines around the world or fiscal moves in the United States.