The Ferocity of This Market Sell-Off Eclipses the Christmas Eve Rout

(Bloomberg) -- Seldom in 2018 did investors feel worse than on Christmas Eve. That’s when a whirlwind of selling sent the S&P 500 within points of a bear market. By one measure, the pressure in stocks is even worse today.

It’s not the size of the decline but the speed with which investors are hitting sell buttons. At one point today some 89 percent of stocks on the New York Stock Exchange traded in the red, surpassing the threshold reached Dec. 24, when a 2.7 percent rout in the S&P 500 pushed the gauge to a 20-month low. During the December correction, the volume of stocks trading down was higher just on one other day, Dec. 4.

The Ferocity of This Market Sell-Off Eclipses the Christmas Eve Rout

“This is what it looks like when the market starts to price in an escalation in tariffs,” said Michael Antonelli, managing director and market strategist at Robert W. Baird & Co. “We would not want a 90 percent down day, it would be hard to argue that this is a healthy sideways correction if that happens.”

As U.S. stocks posted a 1.7 percent decline, the Cboe Volatility Index jumped 25 percent in the biggest rally in five months. Options traders were busy, too, as total put and call volume on the VIX-related options reached 2.4 million, the most since Feb. 8, 2018.

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