On the surface and if you look only at the market wide indexes, nothing much happened today. The Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index, for example, finished just 0.31% lower–that’s 6.63 points–to 2132.55.
But look at which assets and sectors were up and which were down today.
Utilities, real estate investment trusts, and shares of consumer staples companies were up. Those are all seem as safe sectors in volatile markets.
The Japanese yen, the standard safe-haven currency was up. And so was gold.
Shares of mining companies and the shares of just about any company dependent on growth in the global economy fell. The iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM) dropped 0.89% to close at $36.82 after closing at $38.10 on October 10.
That’s because today’s news on Chinese exports added a distinct “risk off” element to the general nervousness about a hard Brexit, a stronger dollar, and higher U.S. interest rates. For more on why this may be a vulnerable market see my post “Suddenly U.S. stocks seem vulnerable” http://jubakpicks.com/suddenly-u-s-stocks-seem-vulnerable/
In overnight data the Chinese customs administration announced that exports fell 10% year over year in September. Imports fell 1.9%. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had expected that exports would drop 3.3% and that imports would show a slight gain. The drop in exports, of course, raised fears that China’s growth rate would dip below the 6.7% rate of the last two quarters when the government announced third quarter figures on October 19.
The drop off in exports was especially apparent in trade with the European Union and the United Kingdom, down 9.8% and 10.8%, respectively. But the decline was by no means limited to the Brexit Zone. Exports to the United States fell 8.1%.
The data will put more pressure on the yuan, already down 3.4% against the dollar this year and 6.2% lower against a 13-current trade-weighted index. Today the People’s Bank of China lowered its reference rate for the yuan for a seventh straight day.
A lower yuan is bad news for Asian economies with exports that compete with China. So today’s slump in shares in Asian markets certainly shouldn’t be a surprise.
I’ve received email asking “If U.S. stocks are vulnerable, what do I do?” Reasonable request. I’ll be putting a post or two together tonight with some ideas for publication on Friday.