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U.S. stocks gyrate, dollar gains on economic, geopolitical concerns

You’re not the only one confused about where the economy is headed. Just look at the stock market, where perplexed investors have been sending stocks on a wild ride in August.


And there could be plenty more where that came from. Two notoriously volatile months for stocks lie just ahead.


Stocks around the world jumped Friday to cap another tumultuous week. Investors have been frantically trying to rejigger their predictions about whether President Donald Trump’s trade war and slowing economies around the world will drag the United States into a recession. In the U.S., the result was a week where the Dow Jones Industrial Average had four days where it rose or fell by more than 300 points — with an 800-point drop thrown into the mix.


On Friday, the S&P 500 rose 1.4%. The Dow climbed 1.2% and the Nasdaq picked up 1.7%. But each index still finished with a third-straight weekly decline.


Stocks, bonds and other investments heaved up and down throughout the week, with worries hitting a crescendo on Wednesday when a fairly reliable warning signal of recession flipped on in the U.S. Treasury market.


Friday marked the seventh time in the last 10 days that the S&P 500 swung by at least 1%, something that hasn’t happened since the end of 2018, the last time investors were getting worried about a possible recession. At that time, they were concerned about rising interest rates, along with the trade war.


Don’t expect the volatility to go away anytime soon, analysts say. No one knows when Trump’s trade war will find a resolution, nor whether all the uncertainty it’s created will push enough businesses and shoppers to hold off on spending and cause a recession. Some investors are digging in for trade tensions to last through the 2020 election.


“We’re also heading into a tough season for the market,” said Emily Roland, co-chief investment strategist at John Hancock Investment Management. “September and October tend to be the most volatile of the year for markets. We’ve been talking to investors for that reason to look for areas to prune risk within a portfolio.”


The S&P 500 has lost an average of 1.1% in September over the last 20 years, making it the worst-performing month of the year. October’s track record is better, but it includes the worst monthly performance in that stretch, a nearly 17% drop in 2008.


But Roland and other professional investors also caution that this kind of turmoil is actually normal for the market, when looking at it from a very long-term point of view. The U.S. stock market historically has had such bursts of tightly packed volatile days, interspersed between longer periods of calm. Since early 2009, whenever the S&P 500 has had a drop of 3% in a day, it either preceded or followed another such drop within a month 70% of the time.

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