The Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index closed down 1.54% today and the NASDAQ Composite fell 1.94%. Gold picked up 0.87%. The CBOE S&P 500 Volatility Index (VIX) broke above 15 again, soaring 31.94% on the day.
There was just too much for the markets to cope with today.
On the fundamental front U.S. initial claims for unemployment dropped again in the last week with new claims for unemployment in the week ended August 12 falling by 12,000 to 232,000. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had projected 240,000 new claims for the week. The four-week moving average for initial claims decreased by 500 to 240,500. That figure signals continued strength in the U.S. job market and along with yesterday’s stronger than expected retail sales numbers has revived a belief that the Federal Reserve could squeeze in one more interest increase this year at its December 13 meeting.
At the same time, also on the fundamental front, stronger economic growth in the EuroZone has increased the odds that the European Central Bank will announce the timing for an end to its program of monthly asset purchases at its September meeting.
That puts two of the world’s biggest central banks on the road to tightening monetary policy.
Against that negative (from the market’s point of view economic strength that increases the odds of monetary tightening is a bad thing) fundamental background, we had news today of another van attack (now labeled an act of terrorism) killing pedestrians, this time in Barcelona, and more chaos out of Washington where President Donald Trump’s comments on the weekend’s violence in Charlottesville looks to have alienated key players in Congress and among CEOs that Trump will need to move his economic agenda on the fall’s very crowded legislative calendar. For instance, today’s news includes a report that the administration has killed its infrastructure advisory council before it has been fully formed. (It’s harder to quantify how much the belligerence of the President’s behavior or the sense that no one in this White House is capable of rational thought has fed into general market nervousness. But I think it has. For example, think of the effect of this: Tennessse’s Republican Senator Bob Corker, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told local reporters in his state today, “The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.” Hard to see how a lack of stability would make the market less nervous.)
Friday is light on economic and fundamental news. But given the unpredictable nature of this administration, I can’t see sentiment for buy on the dip running strong tomorrow ahead of the weekend.