The major stock market averages gapped down at the open, but quickly pared losses. The Dow is currently down 350 pts and the SPX is down 1%. Energy & financial sectors continue to slide, down 2% or more in early trading. In fact, the S&P energy sector has fallen nearly 11% since mid-July, right along with oil prices. It seems oil is somewhat over-supplied at the moment. The VIX Index, which spiked to 24.5 on Monday, has settled down toward 21. The index measures fear among traders, and hasn’t been this high since January. Commodities are mostly lower in today’s session, save copper and gold. In fact, gold is now up over 6% this month. Bonds are, in the words of Jim Cramer, trading like a recession is around the corner. The iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (TLT) is up over 7% this month. Interest rates for Treasuries, municipals, and high-grade corporates are falling. The 10-year Treasury Note yield is down around 1.64%, the lowest since early October 2016.
This week’s volatility has given the financial news media something to panic about. There are endless articles about the trade war, but no one is pointing out the fact that the stock market’s massive 20% run during the first seven months of his year probably warrants a correction. It just so happens that re-escalation of the trade war with China provided the catalyst. In addition, a step back to survey the landscape reveals a fairly healthy US economy. Corporate earnings reports covering the second quarter are largely better than expected. So while geopolitical risk is definitely a concern, this stock market selloff probably doesn’t signal the end of the cycle or the onset of a recession. We’ll see a lot of up-and-down in the stock market in coming days. But CNBC’s Josh Brown—who actually manages money—cautions, don’t change your market narrative based on price. And CNBC’s Jim Cramer warns us not to focus on the short-term.
With over 400 of the S&P 500 companies having reported second quarter results, about 57% beat Wall Street sales forecasts and 76% beat profit forecasts. The sectors with the highest “beat” rates were healthcare, technology and consumer discretionary. Real estate also did very well. In terms of year-over-year growth, healthcare and financials were at the top of the list. Overall, S&P 500 sales are on track for 4% growth, with profits up 1.7%. So while growth has really slowed from last year, results were generally better than expected.