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How bad was Monday's stock market crash? This chart puts it in context.

Dow Jones largest one day losses graphic

Javier Zarracina/Vox

(Javier Zarracina/Vox)

On Monday, the stock market posted its largest decline in years, sparking fear that the US is on the verge of another recession. After initially plunging 6.4 percent in a matter of minutes, it recovered some ground and ended the day down 3.6 percent.

Vox graphics guru Javier Zarracina created this chart to illustrate how Monday's crash compares with other major stock market declines over the past three decades. Here are the biggest stock market declines since the 1980s:

  • The chart is dominated by October 19, 1987, when the stock market plunged by 22 percent. This huge drop wasn't followed by a recession, and the market recovered the lost ground within two years.
  • There were big declines in October 1997 and August 1998. Again, these proved not to have any broader significance, as the bull market would continue until 2000.
  • There were three big drops during the 2000-'01 bear market that preceded the recession of the early George W. Bush years.
  • The stock market suffered 11 big drops in the last four months of 2008, during the Great Recession that was officially under way by then.
  • In August 2011, the stock market panicked over the possibility that President Obama and congressional Republicans would be unable to resolve the debt ceiling fight, leading to three big declines.

So sometimes a big stock market decline is a sign of deeper economic problems. Other times, it's not. It's too early to say which category Monday's crash is in.

Correction: I originally stated that the Great Recession occurred after the 2008 stock market crashes, but it began in 2007.

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