The major U.S. stock indexes opened sharply lower on Monday as investors weighed a slew of risks, including a possible shift in Federal Reserve guidance this week that could harm corporate profits.
As of 1:42 p.m. Eastern time, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 746 points, or 2%, to 33,872, while the broader S&P 500-stock index and the technology-heavy Nasdaq composite were both down more than 2%. The losses extend Wall Street’s slide this month, with the benchmark S&P 500 losing nearly 1% last week alone before Monday’s drop.
Despite the fact that September is historically a weak month for stocks, a number of factors are weighing on market sentiment. Investors are concerned that the latest COVID-19 wave will slow economic growth, while also keeping an eye on a push by congressional Democrats to raise taxes on wealthy Americans and large corporations, as well as Republican opposition to raising the US debt ceiling. Fears are also growing that Evergrande Group, a massive Chinese property developer, will default on its hundreds of billions of dollars in debt, triggering a global financial crisis.
“The Delta variant outbreak and its impact on recovery played directly into the weak September seasonality trend,” Piper Sandler analysts wrote in a report. “The prospect of higher taxes, [Fed] tapering, and debt ceiling uncertainty, as well as the possibility of systemic risk from China’s Evergrande crisis, all contributed to the gloomy mood.”
Heavyweight Hong Kong property companies and banks lost ground due to ongoing concerns about the potential for ripple effects from Evergrande’s financial difficulties. The company was expected to miss interest payments, as credit rating agencies predicted it would default on its debt. On Monday, its stock fell 10.6 percent.
“With over $300 billion in liabilities and only $15 billion in cash on hand, Evergrande is currently the world’s most indebted real estate developer,” said Ryan Detrick, chief market strategist at LPL Financial, in a note to investors. “Worries are growing that it will be unable to pay $84 billion in interest due starting next week, as well as potentially missing a principal payment on at least one of its loans.”
On Wednesday, the Fed is scheduled to deliver its latest economic and interest rate policy update, with some analysts expecting policymakers to signal their intention to begin withdrawing some of the extraordinary stimulus measures they have maintained throughout the pandemic, a process known as “tapering.”
The central bank has stated that higher prices for raw materials and consumer goods are likely to be temporary as the economy recovers, but analysts are concerned that higher prices will remain and hurt companies’ bottom lines while also crimping spending.
Concerns are also growing about the United States’ debt ceiling. House Democrats said Friday that they planned to introduce legislation this week to lift the cap on the federal government’s borrowing authority, while the White House ratcheted up the pressure on Republicans by warning state and local governments that severe cuts would be imposed if the bill failed in the Senate.
On Monday, technology companies led the market lower. Apple was down 2.7 percent, and chipmaker Nvidia was down 4.6 percent. Banks also suffered significant losses as bond yields fell. This limits their ability to charge higher interest rates on loans. Utilities and other less risky industries fared better than the rest of the market. There were only a few rays of sunshine. Pfizer held its ground in the face of a broad market decline after announcing that its vaccine is safe and effective for children aged 5 to 11 and that it will seek US approval for that age group soon.