Bill Gray
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6 events that spooked the market in 2014

It's been a bumpy 2014. Before Israel invaded Gaza and the plane crash in Ukraine, these six events threatened to derail the bull market ... briefly.

1. Emerging market mini crisis

Date: Late January 2014

Remember when everyone was talking about the "Fragile Five"?

Back in January, investors were spooked by bond and currency turmoil slamming emerging markets. Brazil, India, Indonesia, South Africa and Turkey were on the verse of a meltdown. That was on top of the implosion of Argentina's peso.

The fear was that other markets would catch the virus infecting these countries, creating a full-blown epidemic.

The emerging market turmoil sparked a 6% drop in the S&P 500 between January 21 and February 5 and threatened to qualify as the first 10% correction since November 2012.

2. Putin takes Crimea

Date: March 2014

Vladimir Putin's decision to invade and ultimately annex Crimea brought U.S.-Russia tensions to levels unseen since the Cold War.

U.S. investors were briefly worried that the Ukrainian conflict would spark a broader war or massive sanctions that could hurt global markets. The U.S. stock market bobbled several times in March and April as the tensions escalated.

Those concerns faded a bit, but have not gone away, as the developments in the region this week show.

3. Yellen's rookie mistake

Date: March 19, 2014

On March 19, Janet Yellen learned the hard way how a minor slip of the tongue by the chairman of the Federal Reserve can instantly spook the market.

Asked by a reporter to define what the Fed meant about waiting a "considerable time" before raising interest rates, Yellen said that "probably means something on the order of around six months or that type of thing." The Dow fell as much as 180 points after her remark.

But a rate hike as early as September was not what Wall Street had been banking on. So the markets threw a temper tantrum, fearing the Fed would boost rates before the economy is ready for it. In fact, it took the S&P 500 nine trading sessions before recovering from the Yellen-fueled pullback.

4. Momentum metldown

  • Date: April 2014
    • A frightening revelation hit many investors early this spring: Many so-called momentum stocks have ridiculous valuations.

      In other words, based on their projected earnings, these stocks appear very expensive. The biotech and social media sectors, two sexy corners of the market that are notoriously difficult to value, got hit especially hard by the ensuing meltdown.

      Investors dumped shares of stocks like Twitter, LinkedIn, Gilead Sciences and Infinity Pharmaceuticals. Other favorites of momentum traders such as Netflix, Tesla, Pandora and FireEye were also hammered.

      While the bleeding eventually stopped, momentum stocks are still subject to severe turbulence. That was on display earlier this week when the Fed called out smaller biotech and social media stocks as potentially "stretched" in valuation.

      5. ISIS invades Iraq

    • Date: June 2014
    • Global markets were understandably frightened in June when a terrorist group so evil that it had been disowned by al Qaeda threatened to topple the government in Baghdad.

      Brent crude oil, the global benchmark, spiked to nearly $116 a barrel, as fears rippled about crippled production. If energy prices shot up even more, they could slow global growth by making life more expensive for businesses and consumers alike.

      The ISIS invasion of Iraq also spoke to broader geopolitical fears in the region, including the ongoing civil war in Syria and violence between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Investors worried about U.S. troops returning to Iraq en masse or that the country could turn into a haven for terrorists.

      While oil prices tumbled as the ISIS march to Baghdad was halted, Wall Street remains concerned about the developments in this volatile region.

      6. Bank panic in Portugal

    • Date: July 10, 2014
    • Talk about déjà vu. Earlier this month Wall Street experienced an unwelcomed repeat of the European sovereign debt crisis.

      Stock markets around the world tumbled on July 10 due to fears about a potential collapse of Banco Espirito Santo, Portugal's second-biggest bank. Shares of the Portuguese lender plummeted due to worries about accounting irregularities and mounting financial stress.

      The fear, at the time, was that Banco Espirito Santo's problems would foreshadow deeper problems at Portuguese banks and the eurozone more broadly. These concerns came on top of recent official reports revealing Europe's economy has hit another rough patch.

      But the Dow's 180-point intraday drop on July 10 proved to be an overreaction as stocks reached the finish line with just modest losses before bouncing back to fresh records this week.