The Government Shutdown Confusion Is Battering the Stock Market

4 minute read

(Bloomberg) — Volatility gripped financial markets a day after the Federal Reserve sent shockwaves across assets, with the rising threat of a government shutdown adding to a litany of concerns buffeting equities. The dollar sank with crude oil.

The S&P 500 tumbled to a 15-month low, and the Nasdaq Composite index slumped to the brink of a bear market. The large-cap measure is down 10 percent in December, on track for its worst month of the record bull run. Equities whipsawed throughout the morning as investors debated whether the Fed set itself up for a policy error, before turning sharply lower after President Donald Trump hardened his demands in the showdown with Congress over funding the government. Selling eased as the session entered afternoon.

Among the major stock moves:

The broader FAANG cohort of shares plunged 4 percent and the group is now 25 percent below its record. Twitter tumbled 13 percent in the biggest rout since July. Tech high flyers GoPro and Snap skidded to all-time lows, each down at least 6 percent. Walgreens Boots Alliance lost 4.5 percent to lead 27 of 30 Dow components lower. The S&P 500 has lost 15 percent this quarter, the most during the record bull run.“The real issue is the three things markets have been focused on are coming to a head at one time: an aggressive Fed raising rates, fears of a global growth slowdown, and the trade war with China,” Cliff Hodge, director of investments at Cornerstone Wealth, said in an interview. “Compounding that is the political headlines regarding the government shutdown. It’s all hitting us all at the same time and is causing a major shift in risk-off sentiment.”

Currency traders took the Fed’s lowering of expectations for future hikes as a somewhat dovish turn. The weak greenback spurred a rally in developing-nation assets, sending an ETF that tracks the emerging equities to its best gain in a week. Treasury investors remained on edge after the Fed said quantitative easing was on “autopilot.” The front end of the yield curve rose, while longer-dated bonds saw rates holding steady near multimonth lows.

Crude added to anxiety on financial markets, with the American benchmark sinking below $47 a barrel. And a renewed U.S. push against alleged intellectual property theft by Chinese nationals is contributing to uncertainty over the direction of the simmering trade conflict.

The Stoxx Europe 600 recovered some losses but remained broadly lower, while Japanese shares slid into a bear market. The pound trimmed a gain after Britain’s central bank said it now sees inflation slowing to below the 2 percent target as soon as January. Benchmark 10-year Treasuries retreated after steep gains on Wednesday. The greenback slid against almost every major counterpart, helping the yen climb to its strongest since mid-September.

In Japan, 10-year bond yields fell to within three basis points of zero percent. Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said in a press conference Thursday that there was no problem if yields fell into negative territory, suggesting he has no plan to intensify the central bank’s tapering of asset purchases.

Here are some events investors will focus on in the coming days:

U.S. personal income and spending data are due Friday, along with a gauge of inflation.And these are the main moves in markets:


The S&P 500 Index fell 1.1 percent as of 12:33 p.m. New York time. The Nasdaq Composite lost 1.4 percent, paring a rout that topped 2 percent. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index declined 1.5 percent to the lowest in more than two years. MSCI’s emerging market index slid 0.7 percent.


The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index sank 0.7 percent to the lowest in a month. The euro climbed 0.4 percent to $1.1418, the strongest in a month. The British pound advanced 0.3 percent to $1.265, the strongest in almost two weeks. The Japanese yen jumped 0.8 percent to 111.59 per dollar, the strongest in 14 weeks.


The yield on 10-year Treasuries gained two basis points to 2.77 percent. Germany’s 10-year yield fell less than basis point to 0.23 percent. Britain’s 10-year yield dropped one basis points to 1.268 percent.


West Texas Intermediate crude decreased 3.8 percent to $46.33 a barrel. Gold jumped 1.2 percent to $1,258.16 an ounce, the highest in six months.

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