The Y-Axis Lies

By Deane Barker on October 13, 2008

Graphs that lie: This drives me nuts as well.

It is standard practice to start the y-axis at a number much higher than zero, in order to magnify the ups and downs of the market.

He has a graphic on the page that represents the actual market fluctuations, showing the full value of the index.



  1. The graphs don’t lie; the Y-axis is regularly modified to show relevant data. In the graph Phil highlights, if all the action is between 3800 and 4200, why show a big block of solid below that. The Y-axis shows that it doesn’t start at 0 (or 1000, which was the base value of that index), so while the graph shows the drama of that day, it’s not lying.

  2. Yeah, it’s not lying. Scaling graphs is (like) a zoom feature. The stock market widget does the same thing by day, weeky, month, 3 mo, 6 mo, year, 2 yr. You gotta cut it off somewhere.

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