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The rapid sale of a security by a large number of holders. This increases the supply of the security available for sale and therefore drives down the price. Sell-offs occur for a number of reasons. A stock may drop suddenly in price if its company issues a negative earnings report, or if there are reports of a new technology rendering the company's product obsolete, or if the company's costs rise. Sell-offs also happen for other, perhaps less rational reasons. For example, a natural disaster, which may or may not affect supplies, can cause a sell-off. See also: Panic Sale.
A general decline in security prices. This term generally refers to a short- or intermediate-term decline rather than to an extended period of falling prices.
A sell-off is a period of intense selling of securities and commodities triggered by declining prices. Sell-offs -- sometimes called dumping -- usually cause prices to plummet even more sharply.