The world suddenly doesn’t seem like such a safe place.
Stock markets around the globe got rattled on Wednesday by a suite of worries, from slower consumer spending and weak economic outlooks to the threats of infectious disease and geopolitical clashes.
The 100-company WWD Global Stock Tracker fell 1.3 percent, to 96.47, marking a 3.5 percent decline since the tracker was established in early July. The steepest declines came from Quiksilver Inc., down 5 percent, to $1.71; Wal-Mart Stores Inc., down 3.6 percent, to $75.20; I.T Ltd., down 3.5 percent, to 2.49 Hong Kong dollars, or 32 cents; Carrefour SA, down 3.4 percent, to 22.09 euros, or $27.96, and Salvatore Ferragamo Italia SpA, down 3 percent, to 18.43 euros, or $23.33.
Fashion, in many ways, was along for the ride, although it did play a small part in what might have been the straw that broke the camel’s back: U.S. retail sales fell 0.3 percent last month, worse than the 0.1 percent dip economists expected. That decline helped set off traders who were already on edge, given worries over the European economy, a steep drop in oil prices and the general volatility in a market that many see as ready for a pullback.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average slumped as much as 460 points before recovering some to close down 1 percent, or 173.45 points, at 16,141.74.
“There are a lot of worries out there: Ebola, Ukraine, ISIS, China’s economy. But I think [those worries are] probably overdone,” said Laurence C. Leeds Jr., chairman of Buckingham Capital Management Inc., which, to date, has investments in Macy’s Inc., G-III Apparel Group, Urban Outfitters Inc. and other retailers.
“Nobody, at present, seems to want retail or apparel stocks, and some of the companies are doing very well,” he said. “I think one will look back six months to a year from now and think there were tremendous values that they missed if they didn’t own or buy some of these stocks today.”
That doesn’t mean that stocks might not be in for a correction.
“I can’t tell you when the market’s going to stop going down and turn around, but it always has,” Leeds said. “After it goes down, it goes up. I don’t think we’re near the end of the world.”
Calvin Silva, a retail analyst with Nasdaq Advisory Services, said, “The thought process is that, if the consumer is scared of a potential outbreak, they won’t get in the car to shop and do other things. That’s why the energy sector is getting hit and there’s a lower demand for oil and gasoline.”
And there are still plenty of other, macro worries for retailers, from online competition and weakening mall traffic to a consumer who has been trained to buy with 50 percent discounts.
Simeon Siegel, a specialty retail analyst at Nomura Securities, said investors have been showing some signs of concern, trading down, for instance, shares of handbag makers Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. and Kate Spade & Co., despite their continued growth.
Investors, in general, have realized the back-to-school season, though far from being a relief, was not as bad as feared, he said.
Headed into the end of the year, he described the sentiment on Wall Street as one of “Shoot first, ask later. You can’t afford to be in another stock blowup.”