2008 is quickly becoming the talk of 2016.
Speaking at a conference Thursday, legendary investor George Soros said challenges facing the current global economy remind him of the 2008 crisis. And while he seemed to mainly refer to China's struggles, Soros isn't the only one drawing comparisons.
A lot of milestones have spurred similar memories domestically. In 2015, several U.S. stock indexes saw their worst returns in seven years, including the , Dow Jones industrial average, Dow Jones transportation average and the small-cap Russell 2000.
Corporate profits are also looking dismal in comparison to the past several years. S&P 500 quarterly earnings declined year over year for the first time since 2009. Revenue for reporting companies in 2015 saw three consecutive quarters of declines, which last occurred in 2008-2009.
Market watchers have also seen warning signs in high-yield bonds, which tumbled in 2015 to close out their worst year since ... you guessed it, 2008.
And among all the market pains, star investors such as Warren Buffett are posting their biggest losses since then. Hedge funds in general suffered this year, with the third quarter of 2015 seeing the worst average quarterly performance since 2008, according to HFR.
So with all the bad news piling on, is now the time to panic?
Comparisons to the financial crisis can hit a nerve with investors, who are eager to avoid repeating the days of a plummeting market and a global recession. However, some data points may be more worrisome than others. If many areas of the market struggled in 2015, it would logically follow that stock pickers would also do poorly.
High-flying Apple has drawn attention recently for posting its stock's first annual loss since 2008. While the tech giant influences the S&P 500 more than other names as the largest stock in the market-cap-weighted index, one stock alone may not be the best gauge of the market. Apple's troubles have also been attributed to slowing iPhone sales and a lag in recent innovation.
But significant underperformance in the Dow transports is often seen as an indicator of economic weakness. High-yield bonds, which often move in direct correlation with stocks, also spurred concern that the stock market could follow last year's plunge.
According to Dennis Davitt of Harvest Volatility Advisors, the awareness alone of these comparisons may be enough to prevent another 2008-like scenario.
"In 2008, the biggest problem was we thought we had no risk. If you don't have the perception of risk, you tend to do riskier things," Davitt said Tuesday on "Trading Nation. " "I think nowadays, we are way more aware of the risk in the marketplace."
But some believe that investors have been shrugging off such warnings, which may be its own reason for concern. While Nicholas Colas of Convergex doesn't foresee another financial crisis scenario, he said the 2008 conversation is worth having.
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"You can see the arguments," Colas told CNBC in a phone interview Friday. "You have things that were very highly valued: commodities two years ago and equities through the past year. You're seeing those bubbles deflate, and no one knows where that path leads."
For Colas, the downturn in commodities prices is analogous to the housing bubble pop in the 2000s, and stocks may be next to fall. However, he said more volatility in the market will be the result of the normalization of interest rates, and not necessarily another crisis.
"We're coming off a very unique period of history," Colas said. "It doesn't surprise me in the least that we're seeing more volatility as a result. Does that volatility devolve into a 2008-style meltdown? I don't see it yet, but I understand the concern. We're in uncharted waters here."
At its worst, the market should see a crisis mimicking 1998, when stocks fell 20 percent over six weeks, rather than a 2008-style collapse, Gina Martin Adams of Wells Fargo wrote in a report on Thursday. Unlike 2008, the current market environment seems to be holding up well against pressure from commodities and slowing export and manufacturing activity, she said.
"As long as recessionary indicators do not rear their ugly head now is not the time to get defensive, in our view, but the time to look for opportunity amid the turmoil," she wrote.
According to Adams, recent market challenges such as low oil prices, a strong U.S. dollar and emerging markets turmoil are more akin to the 1998 correction than the financial crisis.
In fact, the recent recollections may have less to do with similarities and more to do with finding a convenient frame of reference after a multi-year bull market.
"2008 is just such an exceptional year, and hopefully a situation that we never see again," Stacey Gilbert of Susquehanna said on a Friday "Trading Nation" segment. "The only reason I think people refer to 2008 is, it's the most recent volatility event that we have, particularly for some of the more recent traders."
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