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Is a new stock market panic setting in?

Brian Sozzi
·Editor-at-Large
·3 min read

At least for now, money managers say a renewed bout of turbulence in the markets is not a signal of a looming March 2020-like panic.

Although it’s hard right now not to have flashbacks.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average tanked more than 550 points in early trading Friday as investors were disappointed by a miss in the private payrolls component in the August employment report. Investors took it as cue the U.S. economic recovery is losing steam as lawmakers have failed to sign off on a fresh round stimulus.

In turn, investors continued to voice their concern on the recovery mostly through the high-flying Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC) — it fell about 5% at one point in today’s session.

Momentum tech stocks such as Tesla (TSLA), Apple (AAPL), Nvidia (NVDA), Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), DocuSign (DOCU), and PayPal (PYPL) were all deeply in the red by noon on Wall Street. Friday’s tech sell-off comes on the heels of a bruising, somewhat surprising session on Thursday.

All three major indexes ended the day down a good bit. The Nasdaq finished lower by about 5%, the S&P 500 (^GSPC) lost 3.5% and the Dow shed 2.8%, or 808 points.

“What we saw on Thursday was a reversal that is probably more technical in nature as people are actually taking risk off the table and then putting it back in areas where they have been completely out of such as value. So what was interesting to see yesterday was the leadership. It was not necessarily a panic or something like we saw in March. People were not worried or fearful. It was really more a natural correction of some folks trying to take profits,” said Omar Aguilar, senior vice president and chief investment officer of passive equity and multi-asset strategies at Charles Schwab.

That’s somewhat comforting as nobody on the Street wants to see another Black Monday in the markets (nor are they prepared for it given the rally off the lows).

The August employment report wasn't all roses.
The August employment report wasn't all roses.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) crashed 2,013 points on March 9, crippled under the weight of COVID-19 outbreak fears and a slow response by government officials. It marked the worst one-day sell-off on the Dow since Oct. 2008.

Selling pressure in the markets persisted until March 23, which is now viewed as the bear market lows for the current cycle.

But with the Federal Reserve having extended extraordinary monetary stimulus since March and society adapting to the pandemic, some pros think a prolonged sell-off is unlikely. That doesn’t mean more down days like Thursday are totally off the table in the lead-up to the presidential election, but buyers are likely to emerge with more conviction now as opposed to March.

“We have to expect there’s some period of digestion that includes stocks selling off after such an incredible rally,” Invesco chief global markets strategist Kristina Hooper told Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade. “So this kind of day that we saw yesterday should be expected. And more days like it wouldn’t surprise me either. It doesn’t mean there’s anything incredibly unhealthy going on in markets. It’s just a sign of the times.”

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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