It has been more than two weeks since the first trading days of the year, but the world is still reverberating from those first few days. What apparently started in China spread around the world as stocks, which have enjoyed a great run since the recession, finally ran out of steam. It took only a few days for U.S. markets to move into correction territory as the losses felt the first trading week were the worst ever for the first week of the year. Putting this in perspective, stocks moved down over 10% below their peak, but are up over 100% since the trough of the recession some years ago.
Even though last year was a wash, stocks have not really had a sustained correction for almost five years, the last being in the summer of 2011. All other dips have been accompanied by almost immediate recoveries. Thus, these numbers should not be scaring anyone, at least for now. While we can't predict the future, it is right to ask what this correction means, especially if it is sustained for any length of time. For one thing, with our economy producing jobs at a healthy rate, if the markets are predicting an economic slowdown, that slowdown is not evident right now.
The question is, is the slide because stocks need a breather, or are slower times coming? And if slower times are coming, what does that mean for the Fed's plan to raise rates again this year? When stocks took a hit, long-term rates moved down and so did oil prices. Both of these factors help the economy, but low oil prices are hurting some sectors and some other countries. Finally, we are seeing what a wild card the world economy and world conflicts can be. No one can predict the next international incident and the consequences of such an incident. The conclusion? It looks like 2016 is going to be a wild ride, so hang onto your hats!