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Stock market 'pullbacks' of 5% or more are scary – but normal – so don't panic

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 10/12/2018 Adam Shell
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Stock market downdrafts of 5 percent or more can cause an investor's blood pressure to spike and anxiety levels to rise. And Wall Street's most recent slide – which has resulted in a price haircut of closer to 7 percent – has been a scary ride down.

But Wall Street has a reassuring message for investors who worry that this is more than a short-term blip and that the stock market will keep going down and plunder their wealth: "Pullbacks are normal," says John Lynch, chief investment strategist at LPL Financial. 

Indeed, history shows that market drops between 5 and 9.99 percent for the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index are more frequent than you might think but don't normally morph into major downturns.

Since World War II, there have been 56 drops of this size. The pain has been bearable, however, with an average decline of 7 percent and the downturn lasting a little more than a month, according to data from Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA, a Wall Street research firm.

The good news: The market recouped its losses in a month and a half, on average, the data show.

"After declines (like we've seen the past few days), investors will find that a review of stock market history will serve as a dose of 'virtual valium,' " Stovall told USA TODAY. 

Investors wondering how bad things can get if the market suffers more than a pullback and goes down even more can also take some solace in the performance of the market during the 22 times it has suffered a so-called "correction," or drop of 10 percent or more. The average decline was 13.8 percent, according to CFRA, and the market recouped its losses in 264 days, on average. 

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