After all that, the stock market finished the week higher

The stock market had a wild ride this week. And it ultimately ended up even better than it started.

This week we saw a 1,000 point drop in the Dow in minutes, another drop of around 600 points in an hour of trading, and another day that saw one of the largest single-day point gains for the Dow in history.

The madness got the attention of presidential candidates, the Federal Reserve, and a whole trove of people that generally don’t pay that much attention to the market.

But here’s the not-so-secret secret: for all the noise, at the end of the week it looked like almost nothing happened.

The market’s wild swings amounted to almost no movement to the major indexes for the week. The Dow finished up about 700 points, or 0.9%, opening Monday at 15,920.31 and closing Friday at 16,643.01.

The S&P 500 finished the week up about 80 points, or 1.1%, from 1909.67 at the open Monday to 1,988.87 at the close Friday.

The Nasdaq was up more than 400 points, or 2.6%, on the week after opening at 4,351.61 Monday to close at 4,828.33 on Friday.

It may have been a crazy ride, but on just a price basis, things look even better than where we started.

How we got here

There are a lot of theories on why the markets erupted into chaos this week.

Most fingers point first to a collective worry over the weakness of the Chinese economy, with China’s move to devalue its currency seen as ad admission from Beijing that things are worse than official data might suggest.

Markets were also plagued by jitters over an impending interest rate hike from the Fed, which many thought could be coming in September. (Though after this week, maybe not.)

Other theories range from the market being overvalued to literally no cause at all.

The truth most likely lies somewhere in the middle, a bit of this reason and a bit of that reason which morphed into something bigger and wild.

Next bear market or next bull market

As the week went on there was a lot of guessing as to what it all meant.

There were calls that this was the start of the next bear market and it wasn’t going to end for a while.

Ray Dalio, founder of hedge fund Bridgewater Capital, said that the economy was at the end of global debt super cycle and the Fed is likely closer to another round of quantitative easing than many realise.

Ray DalioBloomberg TVRay Dalio

Societe Generale’s Albert Edwards, who is notably bearish, used a chart showing a 99.7% chance we are in a bear market, writing in a note to clients, “The idea that developed economies will decouple from emerging market turmoil is as ridiculous as was the reverse in the first half of 2008. Remember EM and commodities had then de-coupled from the west’s woes……until they too also crashed.”

The week’s jumps also led investors to dump stocks at the fastest rates since the Great Recession and fears arose that stocks were going to get dragged into the same abyss that commodity prices have found themselves in.

There were also optimistic arguments that we merely hit a bump in a prolonged bull market while other experts encouraged investors to keep everything in a longer-term perspective.

Goldman Sachs was in the optimistic camp.

“We continue to believe global economic fundamentals are strong, even as markets appear to be repricing risk. Moments such as these can, in our view, demonstrate the merits of well diversified portfolios,” the bank wrote in a note to clients Monday.

Additionally, optimistic economists pointed to solid underlying data in the US economy and the higher than expected revision for GDP. There were comparisons to previous market falls, favourably and unfavorably.

Regardless of where the market goes from here, this week saw the market pretty much end back at square one.

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