Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen also conceded to the lingering stress in global markets, which pose a risk to the U.S. economy. Nevertheless, Yellen pointed to strength in the employment numbers, suggesting that a March FOMC rate hike is still possible.

In mid-February, markets began to turn around after strengthening retail sales in January helped prop up investor confidence and further positive economic data kept momentum going. The rebound in crude oil prices also helped kept volatility at bay.

Toward the end of February, the equities market was stuck in sideways trading and ultimately ended on a down note on the Leap Day. Late day selling dragged on stocks and left stocks down for the third consecutive month.

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Max Chen contributed to this article.