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Plunging stock market isn't over, but the U.S. economy has sturdy legs

How do you capture the pain of stock markets that usually run quite effectively on greed, but lately seem overwhelmed by fear? Consider these colorful attempts by veteran market reporters to share the visceral impact of Black Monday's plunging stock markets.

• "It's been a bit difficult to get the license plate of the truck that's running over the stock market, considering that when you look up right now all you see are axles and undercarriage," said Bloomberg News, whose primary expertise is to interpret stock markets.

• "The Dow's tumble marked its largest one-day point decline ever on an intraday basis" — the Dow briefly fell more than 1,000 points — "as intensifying growth fears sparked steep stock-market losses worldwide," the Wall Street Journal stated.

• "It began innocently enough, with a fall in markets in China that might, at the outset, at least, have been mistaken for the healthy clearing of froth from the world's frothiest stock market," lectured the Economist in an article headlined China is sneezing. Will the world catch cold?

On days like Monday, veteran market watchers and lowly investors alike are absorbing wild stock fluctuations and countless economic interpretations as if drinking from a fire hose.

The challenges are many.

China's vast economic engine is stalling and the country's leaders need time to figure out how best to get back on track. Check. Emerging-market countries that mostly sell raw materials like timber, metals and oil suffer when their top buyer — China — slows down and spends less. Check.

The Federal Reserve keeps hinting it will raise interest rates soon after more than a half-decade of keeping short-term rates near 0 percent, and providing lots of liquidity to lubricate the U.S. economy. Check. Corporate earnings in the latest quarter are just fair. Check. For most Americans, wages are stalled in jobs that pay less than the lost jobs did. Check. The rising U.S. dollar makes our goods more expensive to sell overseas. Check. Oil prices are sinking fast — good news for car drivers but also a sign that overall economic demand is less robust. Check.

North Korea is rattling is saber. Check. ISIS is harder to defeat than we thought. Check. So is Donald Trump. Check.

That's a lot of checks. Is it any wonder the global markets are rebooting at a lower altitude?

Tampa Bay companies are hardly immune. At least seven publicly traded companies saw their share prices close Monday at new lows for 2015.

The Dow dropped 3.57 percent, the S&P 500 fell 3.94 percent and the Nasdaq dipped 3.82 percent. But shares of many area companies registered bigger declines Monday, led by MagneGas (off 8.57 percent), MarineMax (down 6.35 percent) and WellCare Health Plans ( down 6.08 percent).

And the United States is supposed to be the healthiest of the big economies out there.

It still is. Unemployment rates are way down, near 5.4 percent in Florida. Home sales are in the fast lane — without the threat, for now, of another housing bubble. Area companies like Tampa Tank, Amazon and BlueGrace Logistics are adding jobs while Port Tampa Bay just threw its hat into the very busy mega-redevelopment ring with talk of twin 75-story towers.

And economic development leaders here say five Fortune 500 companies have Tampa or Hillsborough County on their list of potential places to relocate their headquarters.

Yes, the market ride is very rough. But let's hang on, bolstered with a bit more perspective. Check.

Contact Robert Trigaux at rtrigaux@tampabay.com.

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