US stocks decline following global rout
U.S. stocks ended lower Thursday as investors rushed to safe-haven assets amid a global rout in equity markets.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 254.56 points, or 1.60 percent, to 15,660.18. The S&P 500 lost 22.78 points, or 1.23 percent, to 1,829.08. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 16.75 points, or 0.39 percent, to 4,266.84. Europe stocks were dragged down by the banking sector amid growing uncertainty surrounding interest rates and non-performing loans, with French benchmark index CAC 40 diving 4.05 percent. In Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 3.9 percent as the market reopened after the extended holiday, catching up with the week's turmoil.
Meanwhile, investors were still digesting U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's comments launched in a testimony before the Committee on Financial Services of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday. "With gradual adjustments in the stance of monetary policy, economic activity will expand at a moderate pace in coming years and that labor market indicators will continue to strengthen," Yellen said. But she acknowledged that financial conditions have become less supportive of growth, "with declines in broad measures of equity prices, higher borrowing rates for riskier borrowers, and a further appreciation of the dollar."
Yellen's testimony failed to offer any signal on whether the central bank will change the interest rate on its next policy meeting on March 15-16. She only repeated that the actual path of the interest rate will depend on incoming data. Analysts thought Yellen's remarks hinted that the U.S. central bank still keeps door open to further interest rate hikes, but flagging risks could delay any further moves.
The CBOE Volatility Index, often referred to as Wall Street's fear gauge, rose 7.04 percent to end at 28.14 Thursday. In other markets, oil prices moved down Thursday as market expected the supply to surpass the demand. The West Texas Intermediate for March delivery decreased 1.24 U.S. dollars to settle at 26.21 dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while Brent crude for April delivery fell 78 cents to close at 30.06 dollars a barrel on the London ICE Futures Exchange.
The U.S. dollar slipped to 15-monthlow against the Japanese yen on Thursday as global market turmoil continued to raise need for safe-haven assets. In late New York trading, the euro climbed to 1.1338 dollars from 1.1272 dollars in the previous session, while the dollar bought 112.21 Japanese yen, lower than 113.76 yen of the previous session. Gold futures on the COMEX division of the New York Mercantile Exchange rose to its highest level in a year on Thursday as U.S. equities took a sharp downturn in reaction to a decreasing cost of oil.
The most active gold contract for April delivery surged 53.2 dollars, or 4.45 percent, to settle at 1,247.80 dollars per ounce. Singapore stocks finished higher on Friday, with the benchmark Straits Times Index (STI) up 1.67 points, or 0.07 percent, to close at 2,539.95.
A total of 900.7 million shares changed hands with turnover of 1.16 billion Singapore dollars (828.6 million U. S. dollars). Decliners outnumbered gainers 215 to 149, while 559 others finished unchanged.