Twelve months ago the world was happily sailing along in the Great Moderation, with financial markets that moved gracefully higher most of the time but even in their rare negative moments didn't cause too much angst. The eleven trading days leading up to September 3 saw not a single triple-digit move on the Dow, and only three down sessions.
What a difference a year makes. During the same eleven days in 2015 the Dow had exactly one single-digit close -- and eight 200+ point sessions. Stomach-churning descents into the abyss are followed the next day by epic recoveries. The only thing moving in a straight line is volatility.
This is what the world looks like when things stop working. China's well-oiled, top-down export machine turned out to be the mother of all Ponzi schemes. The Fed is tipping into the next crisis without reloading its interest rate bazooka. The US political process is suddenly interesting in the bad sense of that word. Brazil is not well-run after all. Japan's Abenomics is appearing in headlines with the word "failure".
The markets can't figure out whom to trust -- or indeed if anyone can be trusted. So money is sloshing around looking for a place to hide. One day it's Treasuries, the next day blue chips or tech. But none turn out to be warm, dry and quiet, so the search continues.
If this sounds a lot like 2008 heading into the "one day away from martial law" Wall Street coup, that's because in many respects that time and this one match up perfectly. All that's missing from the present is a stock market crash.