US STOCKS PARE EAR­LIER LOSSES ON TECH STRENGTH

Financial Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - JEREMY HER­RON & SARAH PON­CZEK

US stocks fell for a sixth day, ex­tend­ing the long­est los­ing streak of Don­ald Trump’s pres­i­dency, as en­ergy and util­ity shares plunged, off­set­ting a rally in tech. The dol­lar fell with oil, Trea­suries were flat and gold posted its big­gest gain in more than two years.

The S&P 500 In­dex was lower but clawed back from an ear­lier 1.4 per cent de­cline. The bench­mark has tum­bled more than 5 per cent in the past six ses­sions. The tech­heavy Nas­daq 100 rose fol­low­ing a 4.4 per cent de­cline from Wed­nes­day. Trad­ing was heavy with vol­ume surg­ing roughly 60 per cent above the aver­age for this time over the past 30 days.

“We’re in a change in the mar­kets be­cause of the huge in­ter­est rate move, so the mar­ket is try­ing to fig­ure out what to do next,” said Joe “JJ” Ki­na­han, chief mar­ket strate­gist at TD Amer­i­trade. “This is about a shift­ing of the sands and what’s next.”

In ad­di­tion to en­ergy, biotech and in­surance weighed on the mar­ket, while me­dia com­pa­nies and soft­ware mak­ers were among the few bright spots. The Cboe Volatil­ity In­dex de­clined but re­mained close to the high­est level since April.

“Volatil­ity is back and it may re­quire more ac­tive strate­gies on the part of in­vestors to pur­sue their long-term goals,” John Lynch, chief in­vest­ment strate­gist for LPL Fi­nan­cial wrote in a note to clients Thurs­day.

“Volatil­ity is also not to be feared, but em­braced, as vary­ing data points will cause bouts of mar­ket anx­i­ety. But re­mem­ber that fun­da­men­tals are still strong.”

Ear­lier, Asian and Eu­ro­pean eq­ui­ties plunged as Wed­nes­day’s mar­ket rout ex­tended. China’s Shang­hai Com­pos­ite gauge closed down more than 5 per cent and Tai­wan’s tech­nol­ogy-heavy bench­mark plum­meted more than 6 per cent. Europe’s main eq­uity in­dex fell to the low­est since early 2017. The euro and the pound both ad­vanced.

In­vestors seek­ing to pin­point the cause of the cur­rent rout in eq­ui­ties have no short­age of cul­prits: U.S com­pa­nies are in­creas­ingly fret­ting the im­pact of the bur­geon­ing trade war, while the same is­sue prompted the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund to dial down global growth ex­pec­ta­tions. In the tech sec­tor, which was a key driver of the rally that pushed Amer­i­can eq­ui­ties to a record just a month ago, ex­pen­sive-look­ing com­pa­nies have been roiled by a hack­ing scan­dal.

Against this back­drop, the Fed­eral Re­serve has been trim­ming its balance sheet and rais­ing in­ter­est rates, pro­vok­ing the ire of an un­pre­dictable Amer­i­can pres­i­dent and help­ing force a repric­ing of riskier as­sets.

“What you’re see­ing right now is a bit of a panic — we wouldn’t say this looks like the end of the cy­cle,” said Wil­liam Hobbs, head of in­vest­ment strat­egy at Bar­clays In­vest­ment So­lu­tions in Lon­don. “You’ve got to try to keep the skin in the game for as long as pos­si­ble be­cause it’s an in­cred­i­bly prof­itable pe­riod of the cy­cle to be in­vested through if you can keep your nerve.”

Else­where, West Texas In­ter­me­di­ate crude sank be­low $72 a bar­rel amid a broad de­cline in commodities as OPEC cut es­ti­mates for de­mand. Precious met­als gained with gold. A Bloomberg in­dex of cryp­tocur­ren­cies dropped as much as 11 per cent.

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