The big debate on Wall Street these days is whether the subprime credit crisis is a short-term financial problem or an indication of a protracted economic downturn, The Wall Street Journal reports. Market historians fear it’s actually the signal of the latter.

The defaulting loans have certainly fueled some panic, much like the market crash of 1987 and the failure of Long-Term Capital Management in 1998. But in those cases, the market rebounded within six months.

The problems of the subprime crisis, however, stretch far beyond the mortgage loans themselves to a number of fundamentals, including continuing declines in real estate prices, construction, home sales, housing-related consumer spending, other loans and mergers and acquisitions.

Thus, some market historians point to the savings and loan and the junk bond crisis in the late 1980s, and some market participants are saying that while the market has declined 10%, it probably hasn’t fully priced in continuing bad news.

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