Stocks plunged on Monday, with major indices tumbling by over 1% at the opening bell, as investors nervously eyed the potential ripple effects of the default of a major Chinese real estate company, as well as ongoing debates over the debt limit in Washington.
After defying gravity for most of the summer, September is shaping up to be a tough month for markets, with major benchmarks in retreat for three consecutive weeks. At Wall Street’s opening bell, the Dow sank by more than 500 points, while the S&P 500 also dropped by nearly 70 points, adding to losses from last week. The CBOE Volatility Index, or Vix (^VIX), jumped by more than 15% to its highest since August, as a confluence of risks roiled markets.
Shares of China Evergrande Group (3333.HK) plunged by more than 10% on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange as fears mounted that the Chinese real estate juggernaut would collapse under a major debt burden, impacting shareholders, bondholders and potentially triggering turmoil elsewhere across global markets. The specter of a broader crackdown by the Chinese government on Hong Kong’s real estate sector further added to concerns.
“While the Evergrande situation is front and center, the reality is, stock market valuations are overstretched and the market has enjoyed too long of a break from volatility and Monday’s stock market declines are not surprising,” said David Bahnsen, chief investment officer at wealth management firm The Bahnsen Group, with over $3 billion in assets under management.
Meanwhile, heated debates in Washington over increasing the government’s borrowing limit built on the risk-off tone in markets. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called for Congress to raise the U.S. debt ceiling again in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, and suggested that to do otherwise would risk leaving the government to default on payments and generate “widespread economic catastrophe.”
The U.S. House is set to vote this week on the debt ceiling and a stopgap spending measure to keep the government operating past the end of the fiscal year at the end of September.
Even heading into Monday’s session, the three major U.S. stock indexes had dipped so far in September amid escalating concerns over the Delta variant, pace of the economic recovery, inflation and path forward for monetary and fiscal policy. Retail sales data last week suggested the consumer was turning back towards goods rather than services spending amid the latest wave of the coronavirus, and still-weak consumer sentiment data suggested many individuals were becoming increasingly concerned about inflationary pressures.
And on the monetary policy front, the prospects of a near-term shift to present ultra-accommodative policy posturing from the Fed has also injected additional uncertainty into markets. The Federal Open Market Committee is slated to hold its two-day policy-setting meeting Tuesday and Wednesday, with the event culminating in a new monetary policy statement, update economic projections, and press conference from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell.
One of the major focuses at this week’s meeting will be about whether the Federal Reserve ramps up its signaling…