Europe’s markets all dipped again Friday, after closing up Thursday while U.S. markets dipped at the opening bell.
In the U.S., concerns over the lasting impact of a series of Chinese interventions to boost the economy and its stock market worried investors as well as how the Federal Reserve will act on interest rates. As a result, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 131 points at the open to 16,519. The S&P 500 opened off 0.2 percent to 1,983.
The S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group index was down 0.4 percent to 1,198. Fashion apparel stocks were trading down between 0.5 and 2 percent on a consumer spending report for July from the U.S. Department of Commerce that was not as robust as expected. Bebe Stores Inc. was down over 26 percent to $1.35 while Aeropostale Inc. fell 11.5 percent to $1.11. Both companies reported varied results after market Thursday.
In Europe, the FTSE MIB in Milan gained 1.2 percent to 21,934.15, while the DAX in Frankfurt was up 0.9 percent to 10,228.11. The CAC 40 in Milan lost 0.3 percent to 4,642.67 and the FTSE 100 in London edged down 0.1 percent to 6,188.75.
The falls in Europe came as China’s Shanghai Composite Index closed up 4.8 percent to 3,232,35 – after two weeks of volatility – while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index finished down 1 percent to 21,612.39, with the Nikkei 225 in Japan up 3 percent to 19,136.32.
After sharp declines early in the week, an extended rally on the stock market over the past two days has put the weeklong decline at only 8 percent in Shanghai, a much better result than many would have predicted following the dramatic plunge of “Black Monday.”
Michael Pettis, professor of finance at Guanghua School of Management at Peking University in Beijing and a Wall Street veteran, told WWD that although the Chinese markets have steadied, he wouldn’t be surprised to see dramatic fluctuations continue, just because of the speculative nature of investing here.
“When you have lots of people investing with lots of different strategies, the market can be stable. When everyone has the same strategy, everyone is either buying or selling, so the market will be incredibly volatile,” he said
“We spoke to people about why they were investing when the market was rising, they never said it was because of the strength of the Chinese economy, or anything like that. They would say that they know it’s a bubble, but it’s a government-supported bubble, so they felt they couldn’t lose. This means that at soon as that relief disappears, everybody sells,” he explained.
Though accurate data is difficult to come by, as Chinese investors commonly open multiple trading accounts, Pettis estimates the number of people directly involved in the stock market in China to be around 3 to 4 percent of the population.
Of course, in a country with 1.4 billion people, this adds up to a significant number of urban, wealthy residents. It also means that stock market fluctuations are unlikely to have a major impact on the consumer behavior of the vast majority of Chinese consumers.
The problem for luxury firms, in particular, is the crossover between their customer base and the 3 to 4 percent of Chinese investors who have recently weathered major falls in the market.
“The anecdotal data and common sense says that we should see an increase in capital outflows, we should see more nervousness and one of the ways you express economic nervousness is by spending less and saving more. I would not be at all surprised if we saw evidence that, particularly, the upper middle class have become increasingly frugal,” Pettis explained.
Looking to the future, with China still unsure of how much support the government is willing to commit to prop up the economy and the markets, Pettis is expecting the volatility to continue unabated.
“This is the kind of market where if it goes up or down by 2 percent, you don’t even notice, whereas in the U.S. or Europe, that would be Europe that would be headline news,” he said.
“I think the main thing to watch is confidence; the problem with confidence is that when it goes down, everyone takes their money out and that makes other people nervous.”
Friday also saw some brighter data for the U.K., with the country’s Office for National Statistics reporting that it estimates U.K. GDP to be up by 0.7 percent in the second quarter, compared to a rise of 0.4 percent in the first quarter.
Fashion, luxury and retail stocks, meanwhile, were largely down on Friday.
Among them were Brunello Cucinelli, 1.6 percent to 16.46 euros; Luxottica, 1.6 percent to 60.40 euros and Salvatore Ferragamo, 4.3 percent to 24.93 euros.
The latter had reported Thursday that its net profits rose 13 percent in the six months ended June 30, to 88 million euros, or $103 million, with chief executive officer Michele Norsa commenting that he was “confident business can improve in Mainland China.” Ferragamo counts the Asia-Pacific region as its largest market.
Hermès was also down, 1.9 percent to 315.75 euros, even as the leather goods and fashion firm reported a 17 percent rise in its consolidated net profit in the first half of 2015, to 483 million euros, or $539 million.
The few risers numbered Prada, 1.8 percent to 32.00 Hong Kong dollars; Koovs, 0.7 percent to 0.68 pounds and Italia Independent, 2.2 percent to 29.65 euros.
At 11.33 a.m. CET, the pound traded for $1.55, while the euro went for $1.13 and the Hong Kong dollar for $0.13.