A complicated set of seemingly unconnected issues triggered a sell-off in Asia and Europe that quickly spread to U.S. equities, which sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the broader S&P 500 into a tailspin. Retail and fashion stocks were not immune to the bear clawing, and closed the day with steep declines.
The Dow fell 1.5 percent to 17.826 while the S&P 500 dropped 1.1 percent to 2,081.16 and the Nasdaq plunged 1.5 percent to 4,931.81. The WWD Global Stock Tracker declined 1.6 percent to 114.60. Of the 100 stocks in the WWD tracker, 14 posted gains while 86 declined.
The retreat was driven by: new regulations in China that allow for fund managers to short-sell stocks, which is expected to cool high equity valuations; economic woes in Greece that includes a push to pull out of the euro; and a jump in the U.S. Consumer Price Index for March that is on top of a gain in February, which might sway the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates this Summer. On that last note, retail prices rose in March.
Earlier in the day, U.S. equities were hammered during trading with the Dow falling over 330 points. And in the retail and fashion apparel sectors, stocks were battered with declines of three to six percent. But by the end of the day, closing prices varied and there was one notable gainer: Cherokee Inc., which closed the day with a 11.2 percent gain to $22.59 on a robust earnings report.
Still, the global economic picture is still relatively bright – despite the blemishes. IHS Global Insight chief economist Nariman Behravesh global economic “fundamentals remain solid.” In a research note, Behravesh said Europe’s “economic activity is accelerating, albeit gradually—but a Greek exit is a growing risk. There is also increasing uncertainty regarding the country’s liquidity position. With no access to bond markets, Greece will struggle to pay its short-term obligations without official funds.”
Meanwhile, in China, there is a “further loss of momentum.” He went on to note that “industrial output and real retail sales slowed, although some of this could be due to the distortions from the Lunar New Year. The real-estate sector has taken another turn for the worse with construction starts and home sales plummeting. While economic reforms remain the policy priority, authorities will initiate additional stimulus measures if the economy deteriorates rapidly.”
For economies in emerging markets, Behravesh and other analysts note strength in India while key markets in South America are softening.