Stocks sold off sharply this week, sending the S&P 500 lower by 4.1%. Fears over potentially weakening economic and earnings growth helped fuel the selling, which left stocks at three-month lows going into the third quarter earnings season. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 4.2% this week, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite fell 3.7%.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) cut its 2018 and 2019 global growth outlook to 3.7% from 3.9% on Tuesday, citing trade uncertainties that include tariffs between the U.S. and China, a pending Brexit deal, and the new trilateral agreement between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico that's supposed to replace NAFTA.
On a related note, President Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping have reportedly agreed to meet at next month's G-20 summit with hopes of resolving their trade conflict.
A third quarter earnings warning from specialty chemicals company PPG Industries (PPG) weighed on sentiment this week, dampening hopes of another strong quarter. Financial giants JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Citigroup (C), and Wells Fargo (WFC) kicked off the Q3 earnings season on Friday with mixed results; JPM and C beat bottom-line estimates, but WFC missed. The financial sector initially had a positive reaction to the earnings results on Friday, but later rolled over to close the week with a total loss of 5.6%. A curve-flattening trade in the bond market didn't bode well for lenders, which depend on the interest-rate differential between what they pay for deposits and what they make on loans.
The yield on the benchmark 10-yr Treasury note, which spiked to a seven-year high last week, hovered between 3.12% and 3.26% before eventually settling Friday at 3.14% -- nine basis points below last Friday's close. Meanwhile, the yield on the more Fed-sensitive 2-yr Treasury note fell four basis points to 2.84%, leaving the 2-10 spread with a five bps point loss for the week.
President Trump blamed this week's selling on the Federal Reserve, which he says has "gone crazy" with its rate hikes. The Fed has raised rates three times this year with the most recent hike coming in September, and it appears to be on track to raise rates again at its December meeting. The CME FedWatch Tool places the chances of a December rate hike at 79.7%; that's down slightly from 80.0% last Friday.
The S&P 500 got into technical trouble this week, breaching its 50-day moving average on Wednesday and then its 200-day moving average on Thursday. The benchmark index tried to reclaim its 200-day moving average on Friday, but closed right at the key technical mark. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Nasdaq Composite breached their 200-day moving averages as well; the Dow eventually reclaimed the key technical level, but the Nasdaq did not.
Also of note, the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), often referred to as the "investor fear gauge," touched its highest level since late March (28.64) before pulling back a bit on Friday. Still, the VIX finished the week roughly 40% higher.
In other news, Hurricane Michael made landfall in the Florida Panhandle on Thursday as a Category 4 storm. The storm has devastated the region, causing billions of dollars in damages and killing at least 13 people. Many oil producers in the Gulf of Mexico halted operations in anticipation of the storm, but WTI crude fell this week nonetheless, dropping 3.9% to $71.41/bbl, and the S&P 500's energy sector lost 5.4%.
Looking ahead, earnings season will ramp up next week with Bank of America (BAC), Charles Schwab (SCHW), UnitedHealth (UNH), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Morgan Stanley (MS), Goldman Sachs (GS), IBM (IBM), Netflix (NFLX), Travelers (TRV), American Express (AXP), PayPal (PYPL), Procter & Gamble (PG), and a host of others scheduled to report their quarterly results.
In addition, investors will receive September Retail Sales, Industrial Production and Capacity Utilization, Housing Starts and Building Permits, Existing Home Sales, and the minutes from the September FOMC meeting.