Downward Momentum Persists Amid Lingering Concerns About Economy, Trade


By Investors Hub

The major U.S. index futures are pointing to a lower opening on Monday, with stocks likely to see further downside following the sell-off seen last Friday.

The downward momentum on Wall Street comes amid lingering concerns about global economic growth as well as continued uncertainty about trade between the U.S. and China.

Traders may also be on edge ahead of the Federal Reserve?s highly anticipated monetary policy announcement scheduled for Wednesday.

The Fed is widely expected to raise interest rates by another quarter point, although traders are likely to closely scrutinize the central bank?s accompanying statement and forecasts for clues about future rate hikes.

Negative sentiment may also be generated in reaction to a report from the New York Federal Reserve showing a substantial slowdown in the pace of growth in regional manufacturing activity in the month of December.

Stocks have recently seen considerable volatility, however, suggesting an early move to the downside may not be the end of the day?s story for the markets.

Following the lackluster performance in the previous session, stocks moved sharply lower over the course of the trading day on Friday. The Dow and the S&P 500 tumbled to their lowest closing levels in seven and eight months, respectively.

The major averages climbed off their worst levels going into the close but remained firmly negative. The Dow plunged 496.87 points or 2 percent to 24,100.51, the Nasdaq nosedived 159.67 points or 2.3 percent to 6,910.67 and the S&P 500 plummeted 50.59 points or 1.9 percent to 2,599.95.

With the steep losses on the day, the major averages also moved lower for the week. The Nasdaq slid by 0.8 percent, while the Dow and the S&P 500 slumped by 1.2 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively.

The sell-off on Wall Street came amid renewed concerns about the outlook for global economic growth following the release of data showing disappointing industrial output and retail sales growth in China.

The latest batch of economic data showed Chinese industrial output grew at its slowest pace in nearly three years, increasing by 5.4 percent in November after growing by 5.9 percent a month earlier.

Meanwhile, retail sales in China grew 8.1 percent in November, the weakest growth since 2003. In October, retail sales were up 8.6 percent.

The slower pace of industrial output and retail sales growth was partly due to the impact of the ongoing trade dispute with the U.S.

President Donald Trump appeared to take credit for China’s disappointing economic data in a post on Twitter on Friday.

“China just announced that their economy is growing much slower than anticipated because of our Trade War with them,” Trump tweeted. “U.S. is doing very well. China wants to make a big and very comprehensive deal. It could happen, and rather soon!”

Trump seemed to reference China’s recently confirmed decision to temporarily lower tariffs on vehicles made in the U.S. to 15 percent from 40 percent.

A report showing growth in the eurozone private sector has decelerated to its slowest pace in more than four years in December added to the negative sentiment.

On the U.S. economic front, the Commerce Department released a report showing slightly weaker than expected retail sales growth in November due to a steep drop in sales by gas stations, although underlying retail sales growth remained strong.

The Commerce Department said retail sales edged up by 0.2 percent in November after spiking by an upwardly revised 1.1 percent in October.

Economists had expected retail sales to rise by 0.3 percent compared to the 0.8 percent increase originally reported for the previous month.

Meanwhile, the report said closely watched core retail sales, which exclude autos, gasoline, building materials and food services, increased by 0.9 percent in November after climbing by an upwardly revised 0.7 percent in October.

“Along with the continued strength of the labor market, the boost to real incomes from the recent plunge in gasoline prices appears to be providing a big support to spending growth, which could continue for a few more months,” said Andrew Hunter, Senior U.S. Economist at Capital Economics.

He added, “Nonetheless, with the earlier boost from tax cuts now fading and rising interest rates likely to become an increasing drag, we still expect consumption growth to slow next year.”

A separate report from the Federal Reserve showed a much bigger than expected increase in industrial production in November, but manufacturing output was unchanged.

Oil service stocks showed a substantial move to the downside on the day, extending a recent sell-off. The Philadelphia Oil Service Index plunged by 4.3 percent to its lowest closing level in fifteen years. The continued weakness among oil service stocks came amid a steep stop by the price of crude oil.

Significant weakness was also visible among pharmaceutical stocks, as reflected by the 3.4 percent slump by the NYSE Arca Pharmaceutical Index

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) posted a steep loss after a report from Reuters said the healthcare giant knew for decades that its talcum baby powder supply contained asbestos.

Natural gas, software, retail and gold stocks also saw considerable weakness on the day amid a broad based sell-off on Wall Street.

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