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This could be the worst week for stocks since 2008

The stock market is trying to avoid its worst week since the 2008 financial crisis.

The Dow jumped more than 300 points at Friday’s open, a modest bounce after an ugly few days. But then it gave back those gains and more. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq also dropped slightly.

Fears about inflation and soaring bond yields sent the Dow plunging 6.5% through the first four trading days of this week. That would have been the steepest decline in any week since October 2008. All three major indexes are down on the year.

The selling on Wall Street spread to Asia overnight as stocks dropped in China and Japan. European stocks also retreated on Friday.

“There has been extraordinary volatility throughout this week. The trigger has been the really fast rise in bond yields,” said Evan Brown, director of asset allocation at UBS Asset Management.

After losing a record 1,175 points on Monday, the Dow tumbled 1,033 points more on Thursday. It landed in a correction, a 10% decline from previous highs.

The market turmoil follows a prolonged period of booming stock prices with virtually no sharp declines. Such a rapid rise is unusual, and market analysts long warned that a pullback was overdue.

“The run-up on the market was amazing. We’ve all enjoyed it,” said Rich Guerrini, CEO of PNC Investments.

The S&P 500’s market value surged $6 trillion between President Trump’s election and the all-time high on January 26. The rout has erased $2.5 trillion in value from the S&P 500 and $5.2 trillion from global stocks, according to S&P Dow Jones Indexes.

The jitters have been driven by the rapid rise in 10-year Treasury yields. Selling in the bond market led Wall Street to worry that inflation will force the Federal Reserve to speed up its rate hike plans.

The 10-year Treasury yield, which touched a four-year high of 2.88% on Thursday, is trading around 2.85% on Friday.

One new source of pressure on bonds is the budget deal that Trump signed on Friday. The bipartisan agreement boosts federal spending limits by $300 billion over the next two years. The federal budget deficit could top $1 trillion in fiscal 2019, according to Bank of America.

To pay for the spending spree, the Treasury Department will be forced to borrow even more money by selling additional bonds. Rates may have to go up to attract buyers for those bonds.

The budget deal could stimulate the economy even more over the next 10 years than last year’s tax cut, Brown said. Because the economy is already strong, that boost from Washington could speed up inflation.

“You are at full employment, and the government is engaging in significant fiscal stimulus,” Brown said. “There are concerns that this is not the ideal time to be increasing fiscal expansion. The market is pricing in potential for some overheating.”

Nicholas Colas, co-founder of DataTrek Research, doesn’t think the sell-off will end until bond yields fall sharply.

“Too late to sell, too early to buy … That feels like where we are,” Colas wrote in a report. “Stocks won’t bottom until long term Treasuries rally hard.”

Crude oil prices have also retreated during the market turmoil. Crude slumped 2% on Friday and slipped below $60 a barrel for the first time this year. Oil prices have now lost 10% of their value from the peak in late January.

The ferocity of the selling has caught investors off guard.

While the market turbulence can be alarming, analysts urged investors to stay calm because the economic backdrop is strong. The unemployment rate is 4.1%, a 17-year low, and economic growth is expected to gain steam in 2018.

“The last thing anybody should do is overreact to traditional volatility,” Guerrini said.

Despite the heavy losses this week, the Dow remains up 36% since Trump’s election.

“The outlook for the economy is extremely positive, the strongest in a long, long time,” said Doug Cote, chief market strategist at Voya Investment Management.

“Based on fundamentals, this is a buying opportunity,” he said.