As of 12:15 p.m. EST, the Dow Jones Industrials (^DJI 0.75%) are down 308 points, as analysts pointed to the results of yesterday's U.S. elections as opening the door for more conflict on the fiscal cliff as well as worries about global macroeconomic pressures. With the temptation to call a 300-point drop a crash, I sought to find previous instances when the Dow had plunged 300 or more points.
There have been fewer than 60 trading sessions in which the Dow suffered at least a 300-point loss. The vast majority of those days were connected to the mortgage meltdown and financial crisis, as the U.S. economy fell into recession and the housing bust gradually worsened. The markets hit their choppiest patch starting in September 2008 with a 504-point drop after Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, followed two days later by a 449-point plunge in the wake of the AIG (AIG 0.88%) bailout and a climactic 778-point crash when the House initially rejected what would eventually become the TARP bailout.
Even beyond that time frame, most crashes have come from events with broad macroeconomic implications. When Standard & Poor's downgraded the credit rating of the U.S., the Dow fell 635 points. From 2000 to 2002, there were several occasions on which the Dow posted big drops -- most notably a 685-point decline on the first day of trading after the September 11 attacks. The tech bust also contributed to major losses, as the untimely addition of Microsoft (MSFT -0.62%) and Intel (INTC -0.88%) to the Dow in late 1999 near the market's peak gave the average more tech exposure at exactly the wrong time. Prior to that, losses tied to financial crises in Asian currency markets in 1997 and in Russia in 1998 caused big drops, as did 1987's big crash and its 508-point plunge.
Whether today's election aftermath proves to be the beginning of a broader correction or a one-day blip remains to be seen. But with so many macroeconomic issues up in the air right now, it's not surprising to see the markets uneasy about the uncertain times we're living in.