The Week In Review


The stock market wrapped up a defensive week with a Friday plunge that sent the S&P 500 (-3.2%) lower by 65 points to levels not seen since late October. For the week, the S&P 500 lost 5.8% while the Nasdaq Composite underperformed, diving 3.5% today to extend its weekly decline to 6.8%.


Equities stumbled out of the gate as investor sentiment continued deteriorating after the overnight session included more selling in China with the Shanghai Composite falling 4.3% to extend its weekly decline to 11.2%. Continued concerns about the country's economy fueled today's dive after the preliminary Caixin Manufacturing PMI (47.1; consensus 47.7) dropped near 6.5-year lows while the output component dropped to 46.6, its lowest level in four years.


The selling pressure persisted through European trade and remained heavy during the New York session. The daylong retreat began with an opening dive that sent the S&P 500 lower by almost 20 points. The index followed that with an eight-point uptick, but that was met with a 30-point slide. Another rebound ensued, but the move was limited to 14 points, and followed by 17-point retreat. The index then strung a 12-point advance, but once again, that was retraced by a 35-point slide to a fresh low into the close.


All ten sectors registered losses with five groups losing 3.0% or more. Top-weighted sectors like technology (-3.8%), consumer discretionary (-3.2%), and health care (-3.0%) paced the daylong tumble while other heavily-weighted groups also contributed to the market-wide pressure.


The technology sector suffered from losses among large cap components with the likes of Apple (AAPL 106.05, -6.60), Google (GOOGL 644.03, -35.45), Facebook (FB 86.06, -4.50), Intel (INTC 26.58, -0.95), and Microsoft (MSFT 43.07, -2.59) diving between 3.5% and 5.9%. Unlike Intel, high-beta chipmakers held slimmer losses than the broader market during the day, but the PHLX Semiconductor Index ended lower by 2.7% due to heavy selling in the afternoon.


Elsewhere, the discretionary sector was broadsided by retailers while recent high-flyers like Amazon (AMZN 494.50, -21.28) and Netflix (NFLX 103.96, -8.53) lost 4.1% and 7.6%, respectively. The two listings contributed to the relative weakness in the Nasdaq while biotech names also retreated, but iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB 339.84, -10.98) ended ahead of the Nasdaq with a 3.1% decline.


Also of note, the energy sector (-3.6%) finished near the bottom of the barrel as crude oil registered its eight consecutive weekly decline. The energy component fell 2.1%, settling at $40.45/bbl after briefly dipping below the $40.00/bbl mark. For the week, crude oil sank 6.2%.


The Friday drop caught many participants by surprise, evidenced by a daylong rally in the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX 28.17, +9.03), which rocketed higher by nine points to levels last seen in mid-October as investors showed relentless demand for downside protection.


Interestingly, the considerable weakness in equities was not met by significant strength in the Treasury market. To be sure, Treasuries did advance, but the 10-yr note notched its high well before the low in stocks. As a result, the benchmark 10-yr yield fell two basis points to 2.05%.


Today's participation was well above average as more than 1.3 billion shares changed hands at the NYSE floor. It is worth noting that the total was boosted in part by flows related to August options expiration.


Investors did not receive any economic data today and Monday's session will also be quiet on the economic front.


Nasdaq Composite -0.6% YTD

S&P 500 -4.3% YTD

Russell 2000 -3.9% YTD

Dow Jones Industrial Average -7.7% YTD


Week in Review: China Returns to Headlines


The stock market began the trading week on an upbeat, albeit quiet, note with the S&P 500 climbing 0.5%. The benchmark index turned an opening ten-point loss into an eleven-point gain while the Nasdaq Composite (+0.9%) displayed relative strength throughout the session. Equity indices faced some short-lived weakness at the start of the session after the August Empire Manufacturing survey came in well below expectations (-14.9; consensus 5.0). The report was met with a rally in the Treasury market while equity futures slipped, leading to the lower open. Despite the early pressure, the major averages were back in the green just 90 minutes after the opening bell and they continued inching higher during afternoon action. The health care sector (+1.0%) was among the early pockets of relative strength as biotechnology rallied throughout the day. The iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB 371.67, +7.61) climbed 2.1%, contributing to the outperformance of the Nasdaq.


After enjoying a broad-based spike on Monday, the market surrendered more than half of that gain on Tuesday. The S&P 500 lost 0.3%, narrowing its weekly advance to 0.3%, while the Nasdaq Composite (-0.6%) underperformed. Although the Tuesday session produced a different outcome than Monday's affair, investor participation remained below-average with fewer than 700 million shares changing hands at the NYSE floor. Equities began the day with modest losses after the overnight session featured a resumption of heavy selling in China that sent the Shanghai Composite lower by 6.2%. There was no clear-cut reason for the plunge, but some pointed to a better than feared Housing Starts report, which could keep the People's Bank of China from implementing additional stimulus measures. The overnight weakness was followed by a shaky session in Europe while U.S. indices made a brief appearance in the green before revisiting their morning lows. The S&P 500 slid below its 100-day moving average (2,098) during midday action and hit its session low just a point below the 50-day average (2,095) before settling just above that level.


The stock market ended the Wednesday session on a lower note after enduring a volatile day that included opening weakness, an afternoon rebound, and a slide from rebound highs. When the dust settled, the S&P 500 ended lower by 0.8%, turning a slim weekly gain into a 0.6% week-to-date loss. Stocks stumbled at the start after the overnight session featured more uninspiring action in China. Specifically, the Shanghai Composite climbed 1.2%, but not before being down more than 5.0% in the early going. The wild turnaround was followed by a retreat across European markets while U.S. equities opened in the red and continued their slide with the energy sector (-2.8%) pacing the move. The growth-sensitive group extended its weekly loss to 3.2% while crude oil fell to a new low for the year, ending the pit session lower by 4.3% at $40.80/bbl. Similarly, the other commodity-related sector—materials (-1.2%)—ended at the bottom of the leaderboard amid weakness in steelmakers. The Market Vectors Steel ETF (SLX 25.63, -0.75) lost 2.8%. That being said, mining shares represented a pocket of strength, evidenced by a 2.9% spike in Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX 15.20, +0.43). On a related note, gold futures climbed 1.2% to $1130.70/ozt. The early selling pressured the S&P 500 below its 200-day moving average (2,078), but the benchmark index crawled back above that mark during afternoon action and charged to an intraday high after the minutes from the July FOMC meeting crossed the wires about 20 minutes ahead of the scheduled release time. Overall, the minutes appeared to be quite dovish with members "generally agreeing" that more information is needed before hiking rates. Furthermore, most members believed that "conditions for policy firming had not yet been achieved," but they agreed that conditions were nearing that point.


The market registered its third consecutive decline on Thursday with the S&P 500 (-2.1%) slashing below its 200-day moving average (2,078). The benchmark index slid to levels not seen since early February while the Nasdaq Composite (-2.8%) displayed relative weakness throughout the day. The daylong selloff was brought on by a heightened sense of uncertainty among investors, pulling the S&P 500 into the red for 2015 (-1.1%). To be sure, some of the uncertainty (rate-hike speculation, concerns about the global economy, plunging commodity prices) had been brewing for a while, whereas today's session reminded investors about ongoing concerns related to China and Greece. Overnight, China's Shanghai Composite tumbled 3.4% amid reports the country's official GDP target could be lowered to 6.5% from 7.0%. Sellers maintained control despite a CNY120 billion injection from the People's Bank of China into capital markets. As for Greece, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras resigned from his post and called for a snap election, set for September 20, just three days after the FOMC concludes its September meeting. It is worth noting that there are indications Greece's minority parties could try to form a coalition government, which would block the September 20 vote.