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Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

It's the first trading day of the year, and in just the first hour of trading, the S&P 500 fell 0.82%. That also means that after an hour the S&P 500 was down 0.82% YTD. There are about 1,640 trading hours in the day, which means that on an annualized basis, the S&P is down, um ... 99.99986%.

Be smart: As we head into an arbitrary new year, then, it's worth being aware of some of the other arbitrary conventions that govern a lot of talk about markets.

  • Measures of time. While YTD is probably the weirdest measure of time, most of the other time measures the market focuses on are also arbitrary. 12 months; 3 months; 1 calendar month; 1 week: None of these correspond to true investment horizons. And then there's the most common one of all, which is 1 day. Market participants, and the media, pay altogether too much attention to single-day moves in stocks and indices.
  • Nominal share price. A company might have 1 billion shares outstanding at $10 each, or it might have 40 million shares outstanding at $250 each. There's no difference. (Unless it's in the Dow, where for no good reason nominal share price matters greatly.)
  • Up is good. In the currency markets, there's debate about whether it's good for the dollar to be expensive. In the stock market, by contrast, there's near unanimity that higher is always better. If stocks go up, that's good; if they go down, that's bad. Essentially, everybody's assumed to be a seller rather than a buyer.
  • Ignoring dividends. Over the past 50 years, the level of the S&P 500 has risen by 2,100%. So if you bought a painting in 1968 for $1,000 and it's now worth $45,000, that's up 4,400% and you've doubled the performance of the S&P, right? Wrong. The S&P has been throwing off dividends all that time. If you didn't need income from your painting, you didn't need income from the same money invested in stocks. And if you'd reinvested your dividends, you'd actually be up 9,300% since 1968.
  • The 0% baseline. People really care about whether something has gone up or down, almost more than they care about how much it has moved. If you're up on the [insert arbitrary time period here] that's good; if you're down, that's bad. This is especially true on IPO day, again for no obvious reason.

Our thought bubble: Use your own timeframe and judge against benchmarks which are meaningful to your own circumstances. The media can't do that for you.

Sign up for Axios Edge, Felix's weekly look-ahead at the stories that will drive the business world, here.

Go deeper

Biden: "Being a cop today is one hell of a lot harder than it's ever been"

President Biden speaks during the 40th Annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service at the U.S Capitolon Oct. 16. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden speaking at the U.S. Capitol on Saturday honored members of law enforcement who died in the line of duty in 2019 and 2021 and saluted those who are currently serving.

Driving the news: "We expect everything of you, and it's beyond the capacity of anyone to meet the total expectations. Being a cop today is one hell of a lot harder than it's ever been," Biden said.

Updated 5 hours ago - World

Islamic State claims responsibility for deadly bombing in southern Afghanistan

The mosque after the explosion in southern Kandahar province on Oct. 15. Photo: Murteza Khaliqi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a massive blast that tore through a crowded Shiite mosque in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Friday, killing at least 47 people and injuring dozens more, AP reports.

Why it matters: Friday's attack was the deadliest to strike Afghanistan since the U.S. withdrew its troops from the region and is the second major attack on a Shiite mosque in a week, underscoring the Taliban's growing security threat from other militant groups.

New wave of strikes will test worker power

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Thousands of John Deere workers hit the picket line this week after the union smacked down a new worker contract from the farm and equipment maker.

Why it matters: There’s a wave of worker angst spreading across the country. They wield new power that’s come with a historic worker shortage.