The past two weeks of stock trading have been epic.
In the last 10 trading days, the Dow fell more than 350 points six times. There was also one day when the Dow rose by 1,000 points — the biggest point gain ever.
The market is in an historic period of volatility. The S&P 500 was up or down more than 1% nine times in December and 64 times this year. In all of 2017, that happened only eight times. Here's the play by play of the last 10 days.
Friday, December 14: China fears
China says it will cut tariffs on imports of American-made cars in a concession to the Trump administration to de-escalate the trade war. President Donald Trump hints at a breakthrough in trade negotiations. Yet Wall Street is unfazed. The Dow falls 497 points because investors focused on warning signs about China's massive — and slowing — economy. Bannockburn Global Forex announces China's retail sales decelerated to their weakest pace in 15 years and its industrial production was the slowest since 2002.
Monday, December 17: Trump's scare tactics
Small stocks that make up the Russell 2000 fall into a bear market — the first major US index to tumble 20% from its peak. The Dow falls 508 points as President Trump worries Wall Street that he will interfere with the Federal Reserve's independence. He tweets, "it is incredible that with a very strong dollar and virtually no inflation, the outside world blowing up around us, Paris is burning and China way down, the Fed is even considering yet another interest rate hike. Take the Victory!" Stocks are now having their worst December since the Great Depression.
Tuesday, December 18: Wild swings
The Dow closes 82 points higher, but stocks trade in a 412-point range as investors try to gauge what the Federal Reserve will announce at the end of its two-day meeting Wednesday.
Wednesday, December 19: Fed panic on Wall Street
Stocks trade up and down in a wild session. The Dow rises as much as 382 points after the Federal Reserve hikes rates — but then proceeds to tumble 352 points to the lowest level of the year. Investors worry that the Fed signals a more aggressive stance than Wall Street had hoped for. The Fed lowers its economic growth forecast for 2019 while still signaling that it will continue to raise rates — albeit at a slower pace.
Thursday, December 20: Volatility spikes
The Dow falls 464 points, closing below 23,000 for the first time since October 2017. The VIX volatility index climbs to the highest level since February.
Friday, December 21: Nasdaq in bear territory
It's a lousy end to a lousy five days. The Dow closes 414 points, or 1.8%, lower — ending its worst week since 2008. The Nasdaq plummets 3%, closing in its first bear market since the Great Recession. "Great Recession" ..." and "bear market" aren't words investors like to hear. Tech stocks are hit hard, because investors worry about the future of trade between the United States and China, and generally because high-priced stocks get harder to hold when things get scary. Facebook (FB) fell 6%. The news around the world is gloomy, too: Stock markets in China, Italy, Germany, Japan and South Korea are in bear markets.
Monday, December 24: Dreadful Christmas Eve
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin invokes memories of the 2008 crisis by releasing a statement on Sunday: Investors should rest assured. He spoke to CEOs of the biggest banks, who have their fingers on trillions of dollars, and they said "markets continue to function properly." It's a bizarre statement because people weren't really thinking they weren't functioning properly. Mnuchin also says President Trump doesn't really intend to fire the Federal Reserve chairman. That's helpful, but Trump then attacks the Fed again for not having the right "touch" to manage the economy. The Dow loses 653 points, and most of the losses follow Trump's tweet. The Dow and S&P 500 suffer their biggest Christmas Eve declines ever.
Wednesday, December 26: Miraculous comeback
On the day after Christmas, there's not a lot of news to drive markets. President Trump is in Iraq to visit service members. There are no major economic data points for investors to chew on. So the Dow has its biggest day ever, rising a stunning 1,086 points — a 5% rise. The S&P 500 also soars 5%. The Nasdaq hurtles 5.8%, pulling out of bear market territory. All but one of 505 stocks in the S&P 500 end the day higher.
Thursday, December 27: Yesterday didn't happen
The Dow falls as much as 611 points before roaring back at the close. It ends 260 points higher to cap off another volatile day on Wall Street. The swing of nearly 900 points is one of the biggest trading ranges of the year.
Friday, December 28: Up, down, up, down
The last Friday of the year is a lot like many trading days in 2018: Stocks move higher and lower throughout the day. By the end, the Dow falls 76 points. The S&P 500 is barely lower, the Nasdaq barely higher. All things considered, it's a quiet day. One more day of trading in 2018. See you on Monday.