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Market Swings Are Becoming New Standard
The New York Times | September 12, 2011 | 10:59 AM EDT

The stock market just can’t seem to make up its mind.

Day after day, stocks swing sharply by hundreds of points. Last week they tumbled 3 percent in the first 90 minutes of trading on Tuesday morning, then on Wednesday closed nearly 3 percent higher and dropped almost 3 percent on Friday. All of this on the heels of unusual back-to-back 4 percent leaps and dives in one week in August.

Now traders head into the week with fresh worries about the chances that Greece will default on its debt and the havoc that would wreak on European banks.

All of this anxiety has caused experts to ask whether there are new forces at work in the stock market that make trading permanently more erratic.

In fact, big price moves are more common than they used to be.

It has become more likely for stock prices to make large swings — on the order of 3 percent or 4 percent — than it has been in any other time in recent stock market history, according to an analysis by The New York Times of price changes in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock market index since 1962.

Some experts see volatility as a problem because it can scare investors away from the markets, make companies reluctant to go public and undermine confidence in the economy, causing further drops in shares.

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