Dow down 250 points as economic growth scare triggers fall in bond yields

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MARKET SNAPSHOT

U.S. stocks closed lower on Thursday, as falling bond yields reflected investor concern that a resurgence of COVID cases in some countries may slow the global economic recovery.

How did the major indexes do?

  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 259.86 points, or 0.8%, at 34,421.93, after dropping more than 500 points at its session low.
  • The S&P 500 finished down 37.31 points, or 0.9%, at 4,320.82.
  • The Nasdaq Composite fell 105.28 points, or 0.7%, to end at 14,559.78.

On Wednesday, stocks edged higher, with the S&P 500 rising 0.3% and the Nasdaq Composite eking out a gain of just over 1 point — enough to lift both indexes to record finishes. The Dow rose 104.42 points, or 0.3%, to end at 34,681.79.

What drove the market?

U.S. stock benchmarks retreated, with the weaker tone across global equities attributed, at least in part, to worries that the recovery could be slowed by persistent supply bottlenecks and the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The price action across markets reflected a “tug of war between fears of inflation and fears of growth peaking,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B. Riley-National, in a phone interview. At present, fears of an inflation surge “are being replaced with the fear that this is as good as it’s going to get” for economic growth, he said.

In the end, such fears are likely to prove unfounded as bottlenecks resolve themselves and as corporate earnings reports begin to roll in next week, Hogan said.

Earlier Thursday, the U.S. Labor Department said initial jobless claims rose to 373,000 from an upwardly revised 371,000 in the seven days ended July 3. Economists had looked for claims to drop to 350,000.

A sharp drop in bond yields the yield on was attributed in part to concerns about a slowing pace of economic recovery and fading fears of persistent inflation. The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield BX:TMUBMUSD10Y was down 3.4 basis points at 1.287% after dipping below 1.25%, its lowest since February. The fall in long-dated yields has significantly flattened the yield curve, a plot of yields across Treasury maturities.

The curve flattening “has already led market participants to sell cyclical stocks in favor of large-cap growth stocks, essentially reversing the rotation into value stocks experienced since September,” said Steven Ricchiuto, chief U.S. economist at Mizuho Securities, in a note.

Analysts have scrambled to explain the Treasury rally, which has seen the 10-year yield tumble from above 1.40% at the beginning of the month, with explanations ranging from a loss of faith in the economic recovery, to global appetite for yield, to technical factors that have seen a flush out of speculative bets on rising yields.

Read: Why is the 10-year Treasury yield plunging to the lowest since February? Government debt is Wall Street’s new meme asset, says investor

Technology shares, however, did not benefit on Thursday as yields fell, as they often do, which may have been a reflection of the idea that the sector’s valuations had become overstretched in recent sessions, leaving them vulnerable to profit-taking amid a broad market selloff, Hogan said.

Analysts said concerns over the delta variant of the coronavirus weighed on sentiment. Japan on Thursday placed Tokyo under a state of emergency that may continue through the Olympic Games.

But others struck a more sanguine note that mirrored the midday uptick.

“Although the cyclical rotation has paused for now, we believe that there is still room for it as there is more reopening to happen,” Esty Dwek, head of global market strategy at Natixis Investment Managers Solutions wrote in a note.

Which companies were in focus?

  • Electric car maker Tesla Inc. Thursday unveiled the Standard Range (SR) Model Y on its China website, with a starting price of ¥276,000 ($42,589), which takes into account government subsidies and reduces it from ¥291,840. Delivery of will begin in August, according to the website. Tesla shares rose 1.3%.
  • Attorneys general in 36 states and the District of Columbia sued Alphabet Inc.’s Google late Wednesday, claiming violations of antitrust law. Shares fell 0.7% and 1.1%, respectively.
  • Shares of WD-40 Co. rose 0.5% after the maintenance and cleaning products company delivered results and an outlook late Wednesday that beat Wall Street expectations.
  • Semiconductor stocks fell on concerns about the speed of the global economic recovery. Micron shed 1.4%, Nvidia lost 2.3%, Qualcomm fell 1.2% and Intel dropped 1%.
  • Shares in AMC Entertainment entered the afternoon soaring after retail traders on Reddit banded together after the stock fell more than 20% this week. AMC stock was up 7.2% on the day.

What did other markets do?

  • The ICE U.S. Dollar Index a measure of the currency against six major rivals, was down 0.3%.
  • Oil futures erased early weakness to end higher, with the U.S. benchmark advancing 1% to close at $72.94 a barrel. Gold gave up a modest early gain, falling 0.1% to settle at $1,800.20 an ounce.
  • European equities fell sharply, with the Stoxx Europe 600 and London’s FTSE 100 both ending down 1.7%.
  • In Asia, the Shanghai Composite fell 0.8%, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index shed 2.9% and Japan’s Nikkei 225 dropped 0.9%.

Video: Focus on growth stocks as bonds yields continue to fall, says one investor (CNBC)

Focus on growth stocks as bonds yields continue to fall, says one investor
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