The stock market's average price/earnings ratio, meanwhile, is in free fall, having plunged about 36% during the past year, the largest 12-month decline since 2003. It now stands at about 14.9, compared with 23.1 last September, based on trailing 12-month earnings results. Based on profit expectations over the next 12 months, the P/E ratio has fallen to 12.2 from about 14.5 in May.
"The market is worrying not just about a slowdown, but worse," said Tobias Levkovich, chief U.S. equity strategist at Citigroup Global Markets in New York. "People want clarity before they make a decision with their money."