Where Does Wednesday's Bounce Fit Historically?

Jan.24.08 | About: SPDR Dow (DIA)

Lots of people are rightly remarking on the savage Dow bounce-back Wednesday. After all, at one point in the day the Dow was down 200-plus points, only to turn the corner and close the day up 300-plus points. That's enough to require a decent whiplash lawyer.

Anyway, inquiring minds want to know: Where does today's snapback rally rank in the great scheme of such things in Dow history back to 1931? To answer the question, I took the last 77 years of trading history, filtered for days that swung at least 1% negative, but then ended the day positive. That produced a list of 962 trading days out of a possible 19,914 days in the entire period.

Preamble complete, let's get to the data. First, measured in points terms, today's 625-point Dow swing -- from the day's low to the close -- was #2 all time. Only a 701-point swing in the summer of 2002 beat today's market change of heart.

Here is the entire top ten in points terms:

Interesting, of course, but the trouble with measuring such things in points terms is it doesn't normalize things against changing Dow levels. There are many ways to do that, but the quick and dirty is to take the one-day swing as a percentage of the prior day's close. That gives you a sense of whether the point swing mattered in the context of the Dow level at the time.

So, where did today rank in those adjusted percentage terms? Measured that way yesterday came in 30th all time based on a 5.2% swing. The top one-day bounce-back of all time was October 20, 1987 (ring a bell anyone?) which delivered a 10.1% carom off the cushions.

Here is a table of the top ten swings in percentage terms. (Again, this is only for days that swung negative by at least 1% during the day, before closing on the positive side.)

Some fairly neck-snapping stuff in there, with two double-digit intra-day swings on Dow days that fell by more than 1% at some point during the day. Also notice that seven of the top ten percentage-based swing days were between 1929 and 1937.

Finally, and this is really riding the data way out there, I had a quick look at what the market did over the next day, week, month, or quarter after one of these big swings. The answer: In all four cases the market was, on average, up marginally, but nothing to write home about.