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Monday's Selloff Is Reminder Volatility Still Exists

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Monday's trading action was a not-so-gentle reminder that volatility still exists. We've perhaps grown a bit complacent, because we have not experienced trading action like that in quite a while.

One way that I measure market volatility is the number of days that the S&P 500 rises or falls at least 1%. It's a fairly simple indicator for sure.

Year to date, there have been just 11 trading days when the S&P 500 has moved up or down at least 1%. Yesterday's 2.3% drop was the worst day for the index since June 1, 2012, when it fell 2.46%.

In truth, it was a bad day for our country in matters that are far more important than the markets. We were reminded, yet again, that we live in volatile times and that life is fleeting.


In terms of market volatility, it's easy to forget that it was not that long ago that markets were on a veritable roller-coaster ride. By April 15, 2008, the S&P 500 had already logged 32 days for the year when it gained or lost at least 1%.

In 2009, there were already 43 such occurrences by the same date, out of a total of 71 trading days. It seems astounding that just four years ago, by this date, the S&P 500 moved up or down at least 1% an average of three days per week.

Comparatively, we are in a period of relative calm, but we also know that can change on a dime. I don't pretend to know what's coming next, which is why it's good to have some dry powder.

During days like Monday, the smaller, lesser-known names typically get hit a lot harder than the blue-chips. My favorite index, the Russell Microcap, was down 3.8%.


Many stocks were hit even harder. NL Industries (NL), which I mentioned last week, dropped nearly 11%, while Krispy Kreme Doughnuts (KKD) fell 5%. Challenged retailer RadioShack (RSH) fell more than 7%, but that one is not much of a surprise, as the market continues to debate whether the company has any future.

There was little to be positive about Monday, but one small name that has been on my radar for quite some time put up some better-than-expected revenue results after the market closed. Automotive service and retailer Pep Boys (PBY) announced that fourth-quarter revenue rose 5% to $530.8 million, well ahead of the $507 million consensus estimate. Although the earnings picture is still not clear due to a variety of charges the company took during the quarter, the stock was up in after-hours trading. Hopefully, we'll get some clarity on the earnings picture today.

Pep Boys has had a rough ride in recent years; it was less than a year ago that a proposed deal to take the company private at $15 a share fell through, following a worse-than-expected quarter. The company remains real estate-rich, owning 232 of its 750 locations and trades at a price-to-book ratio of just 1.1. PBY ChartPBY data by YCharts

Let's hope that today is a bit calmer than yesterday.

At the time of publication, Heller was long Long NL, KKD and RSH.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Jonathan Heller, CFA, is president of KEJ Financial Advisors, his fee-only financial planning company. Jon spent 17 years at Bloomberg Financial Markets in various roles, from 1989 until 2005. He ran Bloomberg's Equity Fundamental Research Department from 1994 until 1998, when he assumed responsibility for Bloomberg's Equity Data Research Department. In 2001, he joined Bloomberg's Publishing group as senior markets editor and writer for Bloomberg Personal Finance Magazine, and an associate editor and contributor for Bloomberg Markets Magazine. In 2005, he joined SEI Investments as director of investment communications within SEI's Investment Management Unit.

Jon is also the founder of the Cheap Stocks Web site, a site dedicated to deep-value investing. He has an undergraduate degree from Grove City College and an MBA from Rider University, where he has also served on the adjunct faculty; he is also a CFA charter holder.

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