"Fear and volatility are back. There'll be a lot of triple-digit days," with stock prices jumping and falling, says Rex Macey, chief investment officer at Wilmington Trust Investment Management.

"It's not just the stock market. Look at spreads on junk bonds. Look at credit-default swaps. A lot of data points show this."

Macey's been preaching a "slow, fragile" recovery since last year. Investors got more excited when first-quarter corporate earnings came in strong. "But we weren't out of the woods. There's still a lot of foreclosures, there's still severe delinquencies in housing."

Then came the Greek crisis, the weaker euro, and "China and Australia putting on the breaks." Last month Wilmington Trust reduced its foreign-stock investments, and "our clients sounded like a chiropractic, they said, 'That felt good!'

"We were in a very stimulative environment. Now we're seeing the federal government sort of slowing down. We're seeing the state and local governments contract. They have a balanced budget constraint.. We're seeing Europe constrict. We're seeing China and Australia putting on the breaks. This is contraction."

And yet: "We still think it's a recovery. A fragile recovery, and a slow-growth environment. We don't have data. We're just being nervous."

Will Americans have to get used to doing with less? "Property taxes should recover. Employment will recover. Your tax revenue will go up again." Still, "it's very instructive to think of Western Europe as having a model social safety net. Lots of vacation. What a great lifestyle. Now it appears unsustainable. That's a lesson to be learned. What social safety net can we afford?"