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After an epic 2017, the three major U.S. stock market indices are trending toward a negative year in 2018, with a return to volatility and puzzling sell-offs after strong — but not astronomical — earnings numbers in formerly stalwart U.S. stock sectors.

Expand chart
Data: Money.Net; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

Between the lines: Maybe the valuations were a little too hot, or investors were spoiled by double digit returns.

  • Perhaps it's people looking at the economy and forthcoming interest rate hikes and deciding to sell off now in case things turn south.
  • Or maybe it's the fear of second-order effects from a potential cold war with China.

The other side: “This sort of price action is extremely normal,” Peter Lazaroff of Plancorp told MarketWatch. “What was strange was the outsized returns investors have earned in recent years with effectively no volatility.”

Driving the news:

  • The FAANG stocks (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google) have collectively lost $1 trillion in market value from their 52-week highs.
  • Four out of the 5 worst performing S&P 500 stocks today were retail companies (L Brands, Target, Ross Stores, and Kohl's), per FactSet.
  • In the last 3 months, the Volatility Index (VIX) — a fear indicator on Wall Street — has surged more than 50%, per FactSet. The gauge still remains low by historical standards, but it's producing big daily swings like the chart shown below.
Data: Factset; Chart: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The bottom line: Enjoy the holidays and get some rest. December and 2019 could be a wild ride.

Go deeper

Tracking the pandemic's unequal impact

Expand chart
Data: Morning Consult/Axios; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

The pandemic was bound to hit the most economically vulnerable among us the hardest. New polling data from Morning Consult, out this morning, shows the degree to which those difficulties were more concentrated among people of color.

Catch up quick: The Morning Consult/Axios Inequality Index has tracked the economic experience of adults in three wage groups since May 2020. We began publishing the findings in May of this year, and six months in, we’re slicing the data a little differently — and looking at inequality between ethnicities.

2 hours ago - Health

WHO says Omicron poses "very high" risk

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaking in Geneva in October. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

The World Health Organization said Monday in a new risk assessment that it believes the COVID-19 Omicron variant poses a "very high" risk to the globe because it may be more transmissible than other strains of the virus.

Why it matters: Though the WHO acknowledged there are still many uncertainties associated with the variant, the agency said it believes the likelihood of potential further spread of Omicron around the world is "high."

Battle for the soul of a new web

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A well-funded and intensely motivated chunk of tech's hive mind is finding common cause in a vast new project: rebuilding the web on a foundation of cryptocurrency and blockchain tech. They call it "Web3."

The big picture: Developers, investors and early adopters imagine a future in which the technologies that enable Bitcoin and Ethereum will break up the concentrated power today's tech giants wield and usher in a golden age of individual empowerment and entrepreneurial freedom.