The stock market is trading like Lehman just went bankrupt

The stock market is in turmoil.

After closing at record highs on February 19, all three major U.S. indexes are now in bear markets.

On Monday, the U.S. stock market was halted for trading after tripping a circuit breaker following a 7% intraday decline in the S&P 500 (^GSPC) shortly after the market open. This was the market’s third halt in six trading days.

And strategists at BlackRock on Monday noted that the market’s current decline looks like a period in time investors have so far been reticent to draw comparisons to — the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers.

In a note to clients on Monday, BlackRock highlighted the following chart, which shows the performance for the MSCI All World stock market index from February 12, the last day the global market index made a record high high, compared to this index’s same performance from the day before Lehman declared bankruptcy.

And the decline we’ve seen in global stocks is following a very similar trajectory.

Stocks are following a similar trajectory than they did following Lehman’s bankruptcy in 2008. (Source: BlackRock)

“The market’s gyrations have sparked memories of 2008,” said BlackRock Investment Institute strategists led by Jean Boivin.

“Developed market stocks have fallen as much as 27% from the February peak, but pared losses on Friday. The magnitude of the selloff is similar to that in the aftermath of Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy in 2008.”

BlackRock, like many other commentators, adds that stabilizing markets right now will take a lot more than what the Federal Reserve announced on Sunday night. The Fed cut interest rates to 0%, announced a new asset purchase program, and a host of other measures aimed at keeping the banking system operating smoothly.

But with the S&P 500 down in excess of 6% in early afternoon trade on Monday, investors are clearly still looking for a bigger fiscal response than has been so far telegraphed by lawmakers in the U.S.

“What will it take to stabilize markets? A decisive, preemptive and coordinated policy response is key, in our view,” BlackRock said Monday.

“This includes aggressive public health measures to stem the outbreak, as well as coordinated monetary and fiscal easing to prevent disruptions to income streams – especially to households and smaller firms – that could cause lasting economic damage. We see encouraging signs on both sides of the Atlantic that such a monetary and fiscal response is underway.”

Amid these “encouraging” measures, however, BlackRock has grown more cautious on markets for the time being.

Writing, “We have recently downgraded our stance on risk assets to benchmark weight due to material uncertainties associated with the outbreak and its impact, including the effectiveness of public health measures and how long the threat of the virus will linger.”

Myles Udland is a reporter and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @MylesUdland

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