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Chaos of 2020 Can’t Match 2008 But the Gut Punch Feels Familiar

  • Difference of opinion on how long and how deep this one goes
  • ‘Lowest since 2008,’ ‘highest since 2008’ are common refrains
This year’s turmoil may be a kind of mini-2008, but it’s still swollen with superlatives.

This year’s turmoil may be a kind of mini-2008, but it’s still swollen with superlatives.

Photographer: Mario Tama/Getty Images

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With world markets ablaze, it’s tempting to compare these dizzying days to the last time so many asset values fell through a trap door. Though there are similarities, 2008 was different in many ways.

That’s not to say today’s pain doesn’t cut deep. The litany of losses -- biggest oil-price plunge since 1991, record-low Treasury yields, the S&P 500 down 12% in 12 trading days -- may not match the darkest days after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.’s bankruptcy filing, when Wall Streeters tapped their ATMs because they thought banks had little cash left and solvency worries dogged even the biggest institutions. But the panic that comes with the uncontrollable loss of years of meticulously amassed wealth has activated a kind of muscle memory for people who were around last time.