Wall Street Is Getting Crushed Right Now, and Economists Are Worried

Is the economy about to fall apart?
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(Photo: ChinaFotoPress / Getty Images)

If you work on Wall Street, you're probably breaking into a cold sweat right about now. The stock market has been in miserable shape since the beginning of January, but it seemed to hit a steeper slope and begin a faster slide Friday. Early in the day the Dow dropped a full 500 points and the S&P 500 stock market index fell to near its lowest point in 2015. 

Chief investment strategist for Wells Capital Management Jim Paulsen told CNBC that the S&P could fall below  the lowest point it reached in 2015. Paulsen said in part that the slide is due to the fact that the "whole world is scared we're headed for a recession and a bear market."

Market volatility immediately brings about fear that we're headed for another 2008-style Great Recession, as depicted in best picture Oscar nominee The Big Short. However it may not be time to push the panic button yet. Friday afternoon Reuters reported that the biggest investors in the world "do not envision a repeat of a 2008-style crash, even if stocks are in for more pain in coming months."

The instability is in part due to China's huge and unwieldy economy hitting a rough patch. Scott Minerd, a chief investment officer at Guggenheim Partners, told Reuters that the "big uncertainty" is in China, where investors have grown wary of a devalued yuan and losing investment capital to other countries. 

Reuters also spoke to Jeffrey Gundlach of DoubleLine Capital, who definitely didn't see a repeat of 2008 ahead, but sounded dire anyway. Gundlach said, "Remember how everyone felt when the market dropped over 350 points just yesterday? You'll feel more scared before mid-year." 

On the semi-bright side, oil prices closed at less than $30 a barrel Friday, due in part to what the Wall Street Journal called "flailing Chinese markets." Average gasoline prices across the United States are in the $1.90 range and may continue to fall. 

So the markets are on fire and China's economy is teetering, but hey, filling up that Humvee is a hell of a lot more affordable these days. 

h/t CNBC, Reuters, WSJ