Megacap tech stocks slumped for a third straight week — the longest such streak in 2023 — as fears of higher global interest rates weighed on sentiment while bonds bounced off multiyear lows. 

Stocks ground higher in the final minutes of the session in moves likely exacerbated by Friday’s giant options expiration. It wasn’t enough as the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the session unchanged. The Nasdaq 100 inched down 0.2 per cent while MSCI’s global equities benchmark notched its biggest weekly loss since the March meltdown of Silicon Valley Bank. 

While fears of an imminent recession are fading, wary investors are instead facing entrenched inflation and the prospect of more policy tightening. That hurt risk as assets as Bitcoin slid as much as 8 per cent and oil notched its first weekly loss since June. 

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“Investors are concerned that if bond yields continue going higher, the economy is too strong and the Fed will need to raise interest rates further,” said David Donabedian, chief investment officer of CIBC Private Wealth U.S. “And with the bond yield high enough, that poses competition for equity investors who feel the bond market is less risky than the stock market right now.” 

Bond markets bounced higher Friday on speculation losses may be overdone. In Treasuries, yield on the 10-year pulled back from Thursday’s levels that were approaching the highest since 2007. UK and German bonds advanced.

Markets are on edge ahead of the annual gathering of policy makers at Jackson Hole in Wyoming next week, according to Andrew Hunter, deputy chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics. 

“Expectations of an economic re-acceleration have mounted,” Hunter wrote. “But with little evidence that stronger growth will threaten to reignite inflationary pressures, we don’t think there is any need for Powell to dust off his hawkish script from last year’s event.”

In another sign of nervousness, the Cboe Volatility Index climbed above 18 intraday, touching the highest level since May. Bank of America Corp.’s Michael Hartnett warned that stocks may drop another 4 per cent, given China’s economic turmoil and jump in bond yields. 

Options expirations were likely behind some of Friday’s choppy moves in equities. There’s some US$2.2 trillion of longer-dated contracts tied to stocks and indexes scheduled to mature on Friday, according to an estimate by Rocky Fishman, founder of derivatives analytical firm Asym 500. 

Not everyone on Wall Street is confident an economic slump can be avoided. Jeremy Grantham, co-founder of the Boston-based investment firm Grantham Mayo Van Otterloo, reiterated his call for a recession. 

Artificial intelligence is very important said Grantham, after the boom in AI-tied stocks staved off his dire earlier predictions for a market reckoning, but “it’s perhaps too little too late to save us from a recession.”

Nvidia Corp., the poster child for the AI-fueled stock frenzy, is due to report earnings on Wednesday. 

“Markets are being hit by a perfect storm amid surging rates, worsening data in China and poor summer liquidity,” Emmanuel Cau, a strategist at Barclays Plc, wrote in a note.

In other markets, Bitcoin traded around US$26,000. Elon Musk’s SpaceX sold the cryptocurrency after writing down US$373 million, The Wall Street Journal reported. The dollar drifted.

Some of the main moves in markets:

Stocks

  • The S&P 500 was little changed as of 4:03 p.m. New York time
  • The Nasdaq 100 fell 0.1 per cent
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average was little changed
  • The MSCI World index fell 0.2 per cent

Currencies

  • The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index was little changed
  • The euro was little changed at US$1.0873
  • The British pound was little changed at US$1.2740
  • The Japanese yen rose 0.4 per cent to 145.31 per dollar

Cryptocurrencies

  • Bitcoin fell 5.6 per cent to US$26,092
  • Ether fell 3.3 per cent to US$1,659.96

Bonds

  • The yield on 10-year Treasuries declined three basis points to 4.25 per cent
  • Germany’s 10-year yield declined nine basis points to 2.62 per cent
  • Britain’s 10-year yield declined seven basis points to 4.68 per cent

Commodities

  • West Texas Intermediate crude rose 1.1 per cent to US$81.31 a barrel
  • Gold futures rose 0.2 per cent to US$1,918.60 an ounce