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19 Feb 2018 9:14
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  •   Home > News > International

    No, this wasn't the worst day on the Dow Jones — we've seen worse

    You may have panicked this morning when you heard the news about the Dow Jones. But today's fall needs to be put into context.

    You may have panicked this morning when you heard the news that there'd been a massive fall on the Dow Jones.

    Here are some of the ways the story was broken by major news organisations:

    "Dow Jones plummets by 4.6 per cent, its largest ever single-day decline with local stocks expected to follow"

    "Dow Jones share index closes down 4.6 per cent at 24,345, in biggest drop since 2008 financial crisis"

    "Dow Jones has worst single-day drop ever as US markets in freefall"

    But there's an important clarification that should make you feel at least a bit better — it was the worst points decline, not the worst percentage decline.

    And that makes a big difference, as the Wall Street Journal's financial editor Dennis K Berman pointed out on Twitter:

    "Today's Dow -4.6% plunge is large and concerning. But it is percentage — not points — that matters. And on that basis, today does not make the Top 25 of worst Dow days."

    Seen through that lens, the news seems that much less apocalyptic, though it's still a steep fall.

    More or less, the Dow Jones — which reflects the performance of 30 of America's biggest companies — has lost the gains that it had made so far this year.

    Things look a bit better when you look at the past year, though investors are rightly concerned about where this could be going:

    On ABC News this morning, US economic strategist Lindsey Bell explained why the fall seemed so shocking.

    "The market hasn't seen any sort of real pull-back in quite some time," she said.

    "On average, you usually see a pull-back of 5 per cent at least three times a year. So, we are just not used to that, so it seems a little bit scarier I think to the market than is normal."

    ABC News senior business correspondent Peter Ryan made a similar point:

    "Having seen a number of these sort of corrections over the years, since the global financial crisis, it's best to step back, view it in context and just not get into the area where we're talking about major corrections or indeed crashes, because that's not what it is."

    As Berman wrote on Twitter, there have been more than 100 worse days on the Dow Jones. Here are five of them.

    October 15, 2008

    This was the day that the Dow Jones fell 7.9 per cent amid the global financial crisis, one month after the collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers.

    Over $US1 trillion was shed from US markets as a whole that day.

    That was a particularly bad year for the Dow Jones and global markets in general — a total of four days from 2008 feature in the list of the Dow Jones' 20 worst days.

    October 19, 1987

    Known as Black Monday in America, this was the day that 22.61 per cent was lost from the Dow Jones.

    This was followed by Black Tuesday in Australia, when the ASX plunged a massive 25 per cent in response.

    October 28, 1929

    This was known as the Wall Street Crash of 1929 that marked the start of the Great Depression.

    The market fell by 12.82 per cent, and things barely improved the next day with another 11.73 per cent drop.

    September 17, 2001

    This was the first day of trading after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

    The Dow Jones fell 7 per cent, which at the time was the worst-ever points loss.

    August 10, 2011

    This is the most recent day that the Dow Jones fell this much.

    This day hasn't gone down in financial history, however, and investors will hope there are more similarities between then and now — a day after the 4.6 per cent drop, the Dow rebounded 3.9 per cent.

    © 2018 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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