The untrammelled enthusiasm that has gripped the stock markets over the past year has come to an abrupt and unsurprising halt.

Shares on the New York Stock Exchange peaked on 26 January last.

At that point the Dow Jones hit 26,616 points - that was a remarkable increase of 32% in the space of a year.

The US economy is doing well. But the soaring share prices seem out of line with growth.

Last year gross domestic product in the US expanded by 2.6%.

There have been other factors pushing up stocks.

Among them have been recently announced tax cuts by President Donald Trump and a plethora of positive economic news.

But there has been little justification for the outbreak of unrestrained optimism which dominated markets.  

In other words it looks like US stock market has got ahead of itself.

Neither are there grounds to be too gloomy. It is not the case that a series of companies are suddenly facing going bust as happened in 2008 when US banks had to be rescued following the collapse of Lehman Brothers.  

In this case it would appear the value of shares is going to come back down to more reasonable levels.

Obviously this will have an immediate impact on pension funds. It will also affect the thousands of Irish workers who benefit from share options, particularly those who work for US multinationals.

So far the sell-off looks like a correction as opposed to a crash that should cause sleepless nights. But predicting what will happen in the stock market is always a tricky business.

The past isn't always the best indicator of what will happen next.

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