Stock Market News For Dec 18, 2018

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U.S. stocks collapsed for the second straight day as investors remained wary of the Fed’s widely expected fourth rate hike for 2018. Moreover, absence of any positive news either on the trade war front or in the form of economic data made investors skeptical about investing in risky assets like equities. All three major stock indexes closed fell sharply.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) closed at 23,592.98, plunging 2.1% or 507.53 points. The S&P 500 Index (INX) also shed 2.1% to close at 2,545.94. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Composite Index (IXIC) closed at 6,753.73, declining 2.3% or 156.93 points. A total of 9.44 billion shares were traded on Monday, higher than the last 20-session average of 8.01 billion shares. Decliners outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 5.55-to-1 ratio. On the Nasdaq, decliners had an edge over advancers by 4.31-to-1 ratio.  The CBOE VIX increased 13.4% to close at 24.52, its highest close in seven weeks.

How Did the Benchmarks Perform?

The Dow ended in negative territory for the second straight day. Monday’s session witnessed the blue-chip index’s lowest close since Mar 23. All 30 components of the index closed in the red. Notably, in the previous two trading sessions, the Dow lost more than 1,000 points.

The S&P 500 also closed in negative territory for the third successive day, marking its lowest close since October 2017. The Real Estate Select Sector SPDR (XLRE), Utilities Select Sector SPDR (XLU), Consumer DiscretionarySelect Sector SPDR (XLY) and Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (XLP) lost 3.7%, 3.2%, 2.5% and 2.3%, respectively. Notably, all 11 sectors of the benchmark index closed in the red.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite closed in the red for the third consecutive day due to lackluster performance by large-cap tech giants. Friday’s closing was the index’s lowest close since November 2017. All three major indexes are currently in correction territory as well as in the red year to date.

Fed Likely to Hike Rate in December

The Federal Reserve is widely expected to hike its benchmark lending rate by 0.25% for the fourth time in December following its meeting on Dec 18 and 19. Moreover, the Fed’s monetary outlook for 2019 will be very crucial for the investors to form interest rate expectations.

Notably, on Dec 6, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Fed is considering a “wait-and-watch” approach after a possible fourth rate hike this year in December. Fed officials are uncertain about whether to continue with rate hikes in 2019. The Fed’s emerging “data dependent” plan may force the central bank to refrain from hiking benchmark rates in March 2019 and consider broader macro-economic variables while formulating policies about future rate hikes. 

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has severely criticized the Fed for adopting an aggressive monetary stance which according to him is acting as a hindrance to realize full potential of his government’s fiscal stimulus.

Ambiguity over the Fed’s future monetary stance and lack of positive news on the United States – China trade war front resulted in stiff fall of the shares of major companies. Consequently, shares of Inc. AMZN and Microsoft Corp. MSFT declined 4.5% and 3%, respectively. Microsoft carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).   You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here .

Economic Data

On Dec 17, the New York Fed reported that the Empire State manufacturing index fell sharply from a level of 23.3 in November to 10.9 in December, its lowest level in 19 months.

The National Association of Home Builders’ monthly confidence index for December plummeted 4 points to 56, its lowest level since May 2015.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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