U.S. President Donald Trump threatening North Korea with fire and fury was certainly enough to worry global stock markets yesterday.
Taunts from North Korea overnight and a promise from that country to drop four missiles into the waters off Guam sometime around the middle of the month and President Trump”s further escalation of his rhetoric–“fire and fury” wasn’t tough enough, he said today–were enough to turn worry into freak out.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index fell 1.45% to close at 2438. The NASDAQ Composite dropped 2.13% to 6216.
Safe-haven gold tacked on another 1% to $1292 an ounce.
Volatility soared with the CBOE S&P 500 Volatility Index (VIX) gaining 44% to 16.04. The VIX is now up 62% in three days. The close above 16 is the first since election day back in November. The options market saw 2.5 million VIX contracts trade today. That’s about three times the average trading volume of the last five days.
Where was the damage today? Where wasn’t the damage?
Anything with a high price to earnings ratio sold off–which meant just about everything in the biotech sector, for example, tanked. Shares of Incyte (INCY) closed off 6.12% to give one example. Shares of technology stocks that had led the rally fell. Nvidia (NVDA), for example, closed down 4.26% and Apple (AAPL) was off 3.6%. Sectors without much connection to geopolitical turmoil in Asia tumbled with the Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLF) down 1.74%. Bank of America (BAC) dropped by 2.51%. Sectors with substantial exposure to geopolitical turmoil in Asia fell with the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM) giving up 2.37%.
The question, of course, is what tomorrow will bring.
It is a Friday and in some market conditions that would suggest a bounce after a sell off like this as portfolio managers squared positions going into the weekend. However, with the risk of a negative piece of news so high over the next few days, it’s hard for me to imagine any money manager wanting to be neutral, let alone long, headed into the weekend.
The VVIX, an index that measures of volatility of the VIX volatility index, continued its recent spike today rising another 26.74% to 135. Anything over 110 or so signals more volatility ahead so this reading on the VVIX alone is enough to make Wall Street nervous.
The futures and options market went into this week priced for a gain or drop of about 22 points in the S&P 500. With the index opening the week at 2476 that put downside expectations at 2454 on the S&P 500. Well, we broke through those expectations to close at 2438 today, a level of support for the index since the end of May. The next level ahead for the index looks to be at 2411 on the downside. That level has been the support low for the market since May and is also the next level of expectations signaled by the options and future markets. 2411 is only another 27 points on the S&p 500 from here and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see the index hit that level tomorrow.
With earnings season drawing to a close–more than 80% of the companies in the S&P 500 have reported–there’s not a lot of incentive to hang around in this market waiting for an earnings surprise. A lot of money managers have been planning moves to cash or to neutral for the August doldrums anyway. Hard to image them deciding to go risk on at this moment.