The four events -- V-E Day, V-J Day, the Kennedy Assassination and the
Challenger disaster -- all occurred with different market dynamics.
In the case of the first two, the events were expected. Indeed the
New York Times reports that on August 14, 1945 trading was light as
the markets anticipated final acceptance of surrender terms by Japan.
The market was then closed on Aug. 15 and Aug. 16 in celebration of
the end of World War II.
By contrast, both the Kennedy assassination (about 1 p.m.) and the
Challenger disaster (about 11:40 a.m.)happened during the trading day.
Here are the dates and the market performance, with information taken
from the New York Times (Proquest Historical newspapers provides a
text search of the NY Times back to 1851. Though a fee-based service,
many public libraries have it available).
V-E Day: May 8, 1945
NY Times Industrials: 194.91, off 0.03
Volume, at 1.95 million, was the heaviest in 3 weeks
V-J Day: Aug. 15, 1945
NY Times Industrials: 191.98, + 0.72
Volume termed "light"
Kennedy assassination: Nov. 22, 1963
The NY Times is now reporting the Dow-Jones Industrial Average (DJIA)
instead of its own index. News hit the trading floor at 1:41 p.m. and
the DJIA -- which had been up in heavy trading that day -- plunged
21.16 points before the Exchange closed at 2:07 p.m. The closing DJIA
was 711.49, off 21.16.
On the day of the Challenger explosion, the market was flat at mid-day
after the news arrived, then rose 18.81 points to 1565.71. The rise
was credited to news of lower interest rates.
The day after the Kennedy assassination, the NY Times did a roundup of
previous presidential incidents and the impact on the markets:
Heart attack of Dwight D. Eisenhower (Sept. 26, 1955):
NY Times Average, off 23.9 to 309.3
Pres. McKinley's shooting (Sept. 6, 1901):
Death of Franklin D. Roosevelt (April 12, 1945 after market close):
NY Times index up 2 points on following day of trading
Google search strategy:
Normally I try to use BigCharts.com or YahooFinance for Internet stock
history, but those data bases don't run back far enough for your
needs, so as previously mentioned the NY Times database worked best.