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Oct 11, 2018

U.S. stocks plunge to session lows on way to sixth day of losses

A technical take on the North American selloff

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U.S. stocks tumbled a second day, with major averages notching wild swings in heavy volume. Treasuries surged after a strong 30-year auction, the dollar fell with oil, and gold, that traditional safe haven, posted its biggest gain in more than two years.

The S&P 500 Index fell more than 2 per cent for a second straight day and is now in its longest slide since 2016. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped more than 500 points. Tech shares that bore the brunt of the selling Wednesday fared relatively better Thursday, though the Nasdaq 100 Index’s losses from an August record reached 8 per cent.

The S&P/TSX Composite Index fell 200.27 points to close Thursday at 15,317.13.

“All of a sudden, you got that severe downturn because the results of the 30-year note auction were better than expected and people said ’We’re going to shift now,”’ said Donald Selkin, chief market strategist at Newbridge Securities. “It was asset allocation, it was a plunge. That’s unusual. That’s not a normal rate of decline. That’s an accelerated rate of decline. It was an algorithm on the asset allocation because it took place after the bond auction which was better than expected.”

The S&P 500 is at a three-month low after a 6 per cent slide in what’s the longest slump of Donald Trump’s presidency. Energy shares bore the brunt of selling after oil plunged by more than 3 per cent. Financial firms also contributed heavily to the losses, with banks and insurers down at least 2.5 per cent. The tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 surrendered an earlier rally and added to its 4.4 per cent decline on Wednesday. Trading was heavy with volume surging roughly 65 per cent above average for this time over the past 30 days.

“This is just a normal run-of-the-mill correction that happens to be concentrated in some of the more expensive and most notable names in technology,” said Jamie Cox, managing partner at Harris Financial Group. “But I think it’s been precipitated by the uncertainty about global growth and whether or not Fed policy is going too far too fast.”

In addition to energy, insurers and household products manufacturers weighed on the market, while media companies and software makers were among the few bright spots. The Cboe Volatility Index rose to its highest level since February.

Stock market rout goes global

The market rout that started in North America is going global Thursday amid investor anxiety over trade friction and higher rates. Gordon Reid, president and CEO of Goodreid Investment Council, joins Paul Bagnell to discuss.

“Volatility is back and it may require more active strategies on the part of investors to pursue their long-term goals,” John Lynch, chief investment strategist for LPL Financial, wrote in a note to clients Thursday. “Volatility is also not to be feared, but embraced, as varying data points will cause bouts of market anxiety. But remember that fundamentals are still strong.”

Earlier, Asian and European equities plunged as the market rout extended around the world. China’s Shanghai Composite gauge closed down more than 5 per cent and Taiwan’s technology-heavy benchmark plummeted more than 6 per cent. Europe’s main equity index fell to the lowest since December 2016. The euro and the pound both advanced.

Read More About Today’s Markets: This Is No February VIX Redux: ETPs Are Shadows of Former Selves Wall Street Math Says This Is the Worst Quarter to Miss Earnings Stock Carnage Seen Largely Driven by Quant Rotation to Value It’s a Mistake to Expect Earnings to Cure Market, One Model Says

Investors seeking to pinpoint the cause of the equities rout have no shortage of culprits to choose from. U.S companies are increasingly fretting the impact of the burgeoning trade war, while the same issue prompted the International Monetary Fund to dial down global growth expectations. And in the tech sector, which was a key driver of the rally that pushed American equities to a record just a month ago, expensive-looking companies have been roiled by a hacking scandal.

Against this backdrop, the Federal Reserve has been trimming its balance sheet and raising interest rates, provoking Trump’s ire and helping to force a repricing of riskier assets.

Elsewhere, West Texas Intermediate crude tumbled below US$71 a barrel amid a broad decline in commodities as OPEC cut estimates for demand. Precious metals gained with gold. A Bloomberg index of cryptocurrencies dropped 10 per cent.

Here are some key events coming up:

The U.S. Treasury is in the midst of US$230 billion worth of debt auctions this week. The IMF and World Bank will hold meetings in Bali beginning Friday, where finance chiefs from around the world will gather. JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. kick off earnings season for U.S. banks on Friday.

These are the main moves in markets:

Stocks

The S&P 500 fell 2.1 per cent as of 4 p.m. in New York. The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 2.1 per cent, while the Nasdaq 100 slid 1.1 per cent. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index sank 2 per cent to the lowest since December 2016. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index plunged 3.3 per cent to the lowest since May 2017. The MSCI Emerging Market Index dropped 3.1 per cent to the lowest since April 2017 on the biggest decline in more than two years.

Currencies

The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index fell 0.5 per cent. The euro increased 0.6 per cent to US$1.1586. The British pound added 0.2 per cent to US$1.3219. The Japanese yen rose 0.2 per cent to 112.06 per dollar.

Bonds

The yield on 10-year Treasuries declined three basis points to 3.13 per cent. Germany’s 10-year yield decreased three basis points to 0.517 per cent. Britain’s 10-year yield dipped five basis points to 1.674 per cent.

Commodities

The Bloomberg Commodity Index declined 0.6 per cent. West Texas Intermediate crude decreased 3.5 per cent to US$70.58 a barrel. Gold rose 2.6 per cent to US$1,225.28 an ounce, its biggest gain since June 2016.

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