After an intense selloff Monday, global stocks finished Tuesday with varied results as Wall Street pondered the impact of an economic slump in China.
At the closing bell. U.S. stocks finished with mixed results after a tumultuous but comparatively less volatile session that took major indices on a roller-coaster ride throughout the day. Trading volume was higher, and out of the gate the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose. But later in the day it dropped nearly 100 points before closing up 9 points, or 0.1 percent, to 17,158.
The S&P 500 squeaked by with a 0.2 percent gain to 2,016 while the Nasdaq fell 0.2 percent to 4,891. The S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group Index fell 0.1 percent to close at 1,254.
Some of the decliners included Aéropostale Inc. with a 7 percent drop to 26 cents and Avon Products Inc. with a 9.9 percent decline to $3.66. Elizabeth Arden Inc. lost 3.9 percent to close at $9.32. Gainers included New York & Co. Inc. with a 7.8 percent increase to $2.50 and Chico’s FAS Inc. with a 3 percent gain to $10.91.
Earlier in the day, European indices ended squarely in the green with the FTSE 100 in London adding 0.7 percent to close at 6,137 while the Frankfurt DAX gained 0.3 percent to finish at 10,310. The CAC 40 in Paris also rose 0.3 percent to end the day at 4,538.
European stocks in the retail and fashion apparel segment tried to regain Monday’s losses, but it was a struggle. After losing nearly 4 percent during the previous day’s selloff, shares of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton closed Tuesday with a 0.2 percent gain to 139.45 euros, or $129.68. But Yoox Net-a-porter Group closed down 1.4 percent on Tuesday to 31.66 euros, or $29.44, after shedding 6.8 percent on Monday. Kering closed down 0.6 percent to 150.90 euros, or $140.34, after losing 3.9 percent the previous day.
In Europe, the economy is well-positioned — at least for consumers. Following a euro zone consumer-price report that showed inflation at 0.2 percent, IHS Global Insight chief European and U.K. economist Howard Archer said it was good news for consumers in the euro zone, “But a headache for the [European Central Bank] as consumer price inflation remained down at 0.2 percent in December, thereby defying expectations of a small uptick.”
Archer noted that the “failure of euro zone inflation to pick up in December is good news for consumers’ purchasing power; but it will maintain ECB concern that prolonged very low inflation could lead to a renewed weakening in inflation expectations thereby making it harder still to get euro zone consumer price inflation up to its target rate of close to 2 percent.” Archer noted that low crude oil prices will likely keep inflation in check until 2018.
In Asia, the Nikkei 225 in Japan fell 0.4 percent to 18,374 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong dropped 0.7 percent to 21,189. The Shanghai Composite Index in China closed the day with a 0.3 percent decline to 3,288. Stocks in Asia on Tuesday had initially showed gains following an announcement from China’s central bank that it could inject nearly $20 billion in funds to the financial market. But investors reversed course with the thinking it was not enough to boost the economy.
As the market opened in the U.S., investors weighed a report from Robert Buckland, a Citigroup Inc. managing director and head of global equity strategy, who said that the U.S. Federal Reserve’s recent rate hike and expected softness in corporate earnings lead his team to downgrade U.S. equities to “underweight.” A better bet, Buckland said, was European stocks — except for those in the U.K. — as well as those in Japan.
For the U.S., one bright spot was the credit outlook and credit availability for small businesses, the Citi analysts said. For U.S. consumer spending, there are looming concerns. The Atlanta Federal Reserve downwardly revised its gross domestic product estimate for the fourth quarter of 2015 from 2 percent to 0.7 percent. Deutsche Bank economists followed suit with their own similar downward revision, which was based on slowed manufacturing activity and weaker construction spending.
This follows Monday’s report of slowed manufacturing activity from the U.S. Institute for Supply Management. Manufacturing activity is critical since employment in the sector tends to pay higher wages. And it is also interconnected to other sectors such as transportation and energy. So, even as manufacturing represents a smaller portion of the economy, a contraction could negatively impact consumer spending on goods and services, which drives nearly two-thirds of the American economy.
Then there’s the weather. Retail Economist-Goldman Sachs Weekly Chain Store Sales Index for the week ended January 2 showed a 2.4 percent decline. Year-over-year, sales gained 2.8 percent. Michael P. Niemira, chief economist of The Retail Economist LLC, said weather was a drag on sales, and “affected the consumers’ ability to shop in parts of the Midwest, but gift-card redemptions, returns and bargain-hunting all helped to drive business more generally.”
In a separate report from Goldman Sachs, retail analysts at the firm said “expectations are muted” for many companies “as a holiday season with decelerating retail store traffic trends and unseasonably warm weather follows weak [third-quarter same-store sales] results with elevated inventories entering the holiday quarter.”
Ike Boruchow, senior analyst at Wells Fargo Securities, told clients Tuesday that he too was concerned about traffic declines and warm weather in December on gross margins across retail.
By way of outlook, higher minimum wages could help bolster the consumer discretionary sector. Cowen & Co. analyst Vivien Azer said while “unemployment has been falling steadily — and gas prices too, more recently — the multiple minimum wage increases in 2014 and 2015 have been underappreciated, but meaningful, given that 24 percent of U.S. households earn less than $25,000 per year.”
Azer noted that for this year, 23 states will boost the minimum wage by an average of 5.5 percent. “States in the West and the Northeast lead the increase and are regions that already boast the highest minimum wages in the country, which should fuel continued robust growth for consumer categories that over-index to lower-income consumers,” Azer explained.