NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- To hear the talking heads on network news last night, the same ones that millions of Americans view regularly, the markets were in the process of imploding yesterday. I could not believe my ears. The S&P 500 falls 1.4% yesterday, following a 1.6% decline last Friday, and ABC News is hitting the panic button.
Among other little nuggets of information, this Disney ( DIS)-owned outlet informed viewers that the average 401(k) lost $1,300 Tuesday. They undoubtedly have very short memories, but are long on sensationalism. What else is new?
The fact is that we been living in a fairly low volatility environment for much of the entire year, at least compared to the past four years.
Year to date, we've experienced 40 trading days that the S&P 500 has closed up or down more than 1%; 23 positive, and 17 negative.Essentially, there's been a 1% move in the index one of every five trading days. Between April 2 and June 4, there was a 10% pullback, and 14 plus or minus 1% trading days, or one of every three, and it appeared as though we were headed for a bumpy ride, but the markets settled down. Remember the previous summer? Between July 22 and Aug. 22, 2011, a total of 22 trading days, the S&P 500 fell 16.5%, rising or falling at least 1% 10 times, or nearly half the time. During six of those days, the daily gain or loss was greater than 4%, including four consecutive days between Aug. 8 and Aug. 11. That was something to be concerned about. But even that period paled in comparison to what was the most volatile period we've ever faced, based on the methodology I've been using. That occurred in the fourth quarter of 2008, a period that most investors would probably like to forget. Of the 64 trading days during that period, the S&P 500 closed plus or minus 1% 50 days, or 78% of the time. Remarkably, there were 16 days that the index had daily moves of 5% or more. Let that soak in for a minute, 5% moves every fourth day! Between Nov. 19 and Nov. 24, there were four consecutive days that the index moved at least 6%.
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