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Buckle Up; Stock Market Volatility Is Back

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Buckle up. Some level of volatility has returned to the financial markets, and it may be with us for a while, especially if the past seven trading days are any indication. One very simple way to measure this is by monitoring trading days when the S&P 500 index is up or down 1% or more.

In the past seven days, we've had four such occurrences, as the stock market has grappled with world events, quarterly earnings releases and investor's nerves. Some believe that we are at a tipping point of sorts after a multiyear bull market, and that stress is showing.

That's why the big-growth, small-earnings names such as Amazon (AMZN) , Twitter (TWTR) and LinkedIn (LNKD) have been beaten up so badly so far this year. At this point, investors are growing leery of paying up for revenue growth that may never result in significant earnings or cash flow. They are repricing growth, and that may continue to roil the markets.

Year to date, there have been 14 daily moves up or down of 1% or more in the S&P 500, or about 20% of trading days. That averages out to one such day a week. That's a fairly significant increase over the same period last year, when there were nine such occurrences.

Of course, we have a long way to go to even come close to what I consider the most volatile period in market history, the fourth quarter of 2008. Although it was not all that long ago, I believe that investors have done their best to try and forget it. During that quarter, the S&P 500 had a 50 trading days with moves of 1% or more, out of 64 total trading days.

The roller coaster never seemed to end. The most amazing statistic from that period is that there were 16 days that the S&P 500 moved up or down at least 5%. Between 1950 and 2007, a 57-year period, there were just 19 such occurrences, so during the fourth quarter of 2008, we experienced a lifetime of market volatility in only three months. It's no wonder that many would rather just forget that period.

Interestingly, many of the major media outlets have forgotten. That's why I have to laugh when I see the "sky is falling" headlines following recent down days on Wall Street. Yes, volatility, as measured by my simple approach is increasing, but this is still a far cry from 2008.

At the time of publication, Heller had no positions in stocks mentioned.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

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