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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.

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to actually deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

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The latest: The president called Doocy Monday evening, the reporter told Fox's Sean Hannity. "He cleared the air and I appreciated it. We had a nice call," Doocy said when asked whether the president apologized, adding: "I don't need anyone to apologize to me."

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