The Worst One-Day Percentage Losses for the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq

On days like today we always see headlines about how the day’s point losses rank for the indices. But I’m always interested in where the moves rank on a percentage basis because that’s the only way to do a comparison against history. A -777 Dow today, while a record point loss, was *only* a 7% loss and doesn’t rank in the top 5 all-time but it is the 5th worst post-1940 or so. We’re certainly seeing historic moves right now. So here are some of the worst percentage days for the major indices:

Today was the third worst one-day decline for the Nasdaq. Here are the 10 worst percentage losses for the Nasdaq:

  • October 19, 1987: -11.35%
  • April 14, 2000: -9.67%
  • September 29, 2008: -9.14%
  • October 26, 1987: -9.01%
  • October 20, 1987: -9.00%
  • December 1, 2008: -8.95%
  • August 31, 1998: -8.56%
  • October 15, 2008: -8.47%
  • April 3, 2000: -7.64%
  • January 2, 2001: -7.23%

The S&P 500 had its second worst day since 1950. (The data’s from Yahoo Finance and only goes back to 1950. The S&P 500 index was created in 1957, but it has been extrapolated back in time.) Here are the 10 worst one-day percentage losses for the S&P 500::

  • October 19, 1987: -20.47%
  • October 15, 2008: -9.03%
  • December 1, 2008: -8.93%
  • September 29, 2008: -8.79%
  • October 26, 1987: -8.28%
  • October 9, 2008: -7.62%
  • November 13, 2008: -6.92%
  • October 27, 1997: -6.87%
  • August 31, 1998: -6.80%
  • January 8, 1988: -6.77%
  • November 20, 2008: -6.71%

There are a lot of October & September dates in that list!

And finally the Dow. I’m not sure where today’s drop ranks but it’s not in the top 5 (via Dave Manuel).

  • October 19, 1987: -22.61%
  • October 28, 1929: -12.82%
  • October 29, 1929: -11.73%
  • November 6, 1929: -9.92%
  • December 18, 1899: -8.72%

From the data I pulled from Yahoo Finance, which only goes back to 1928, today was the 17th worst day since 1928.. It was the fifth worst in modern times — which is probably a better measure given how different the world is now. Given all the circuit breakers put in post the 1987 and 1989 “market breaks” it would be real difficult (if not impossible) to get another 22% down day. Here’s the modern five eight worst Dow days:

  • October 19, 1987: -22.61%
  • October 26, 1987: -8.04%
  • October 15, 2008: -7.87%
  • December 1, 2008: -7.70%
  • October 9, 2008: -7.33%
  • October 27, 1997: -7.18%
  • September 17, 2001: -7.13%
  • September 29, 2008: -6.98%

Comments

  1. Posted by Scott on September 29, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    Mike,

    This is definitely the time to be a day trader (or just sit in cash). Thanks for your daily takes on this crazy market. Through the education you provide, I was able to avoid a devastating day today. Keep up the great work!

  2. Posted by Pat on September 29, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    Mike, do you think we will see a rally of some kind tomorrow? The T2108 was oversold, in addition to other indicators. Plus the volume was not very high on this plunge. Thanks for your site…

  3. Posted by David on September 30, 2008 at 12:08 am

    You ain’t seen nothing yet. Yes, we’ve seen some pressure from Hedge-fund de-leveraging, especially in the commodities space. But, now the average Joe will start going to cash in his IRA, etc. Timber! It is fun being flexible in these times.
    I note that there were 2 big down days after Oct 19, 1987; the day after and one week after. What are the chances that we repeat that pattern (or some variation)?