Stocks and oil fall amidst fears for China’s economy

NEW YORK – Stocks and oil prices fell on Tuesday after concerns for China’s economy.

The fall in oil prices ended a three-day rally that had driven crude up more than 20 %. Brent fell below $50 a barrel on concerns about global demand for petroleum.

U.S. stocks fell nearly 3 %, with all three major U.S. equity indexes firmly in negative territory for the year-to-date. The benchmark S&P 500 is down 7 % since Dec. 31.

The CBOE Volatility index .VIX, known as Wall Street’s “fear gauge”, was up 10.45 % at 31.40, above its long-term average of 20. The index had spiked to 53.29 on Aug. 24.

The moves followed a stormy week that left investors concerned about further market losses due to slowing growth in China and the effect on the global economy. The S&P 500 on Monday posted its worst monthly decline since 2012.

The recent signs of weakness in big economies has raised doubts about earnings growth and fueled worries about whether central bank support could make a difference after years of loose policy around the globe.

Comments by Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer over the weekend appeared to keep alive the chances of a U.S. interest rate increase in September.

“It’s general risk aversion manifesting itself after a really bad August,” said Mohannad Aama, managing director at Beam Capital Management LLC in New York. “The continued uncertainty about China is definitely adding to worries.”

Sparking Tuesday’s selloff, surveys showed China’s manufacturing sector shrank at its fastest pace in three years while its services sector also cooled.

Data showing U.S. factory activity hit a more than two-year low in August added to investor jitters.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 469.68 points, or 2.84 %, to 16,058.35, the S&P 500 lost 58.33 points, or 2.96 %, to 1,913.85, and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 140.40 points, or 2.94 %, to 4,636.11.

MSCI’s all-country stock index fell 2.7 % and is now down 7.4 % for the year-to-date. The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 stocks index closed down 2.8 %.

In the oil market, Brent crude dropped 8.5 % to $49.56 a barrel. U.S. crude fell 7.7 % to $45.41.

While shares and commodities remained the focus, the mood was similarly wary in the currency and bond markets.

U.S. Treasuries prices rose as the Chinese and U.S. data fueled safe-haven bids. Possible selling of long-dated Treasuries by foreign central banks capped those bonds’ gains.

U.S. 10-year Treasuries were last up 8/32 in price to yield 2.17 %, from a yield of 2.20 % late on Monday.

The dollar sagged against the safe-haven yen and low-yielding euro as investors unwound bets against the two currencies, which are widely used to fund positions in riskier assets.

The dollar was last off 1.20 % against the yen, at 119.80 yen, while the euro rose 0.70 % to $1.1297 .


The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, summed up the global outlook in a speech in Indonesia, where she said global economic growth was now likely to be weaker than had been expected just a few months ago.

She cited a slower recovery in major advanced economies and a further slowdown in emerging nations and highlighted the need to “be vigilant for spillovers” from China’s stutters.

In the metals markets, benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange ended at $5,067 a tonne, down 1.3 % from Friday’s close, as markets reopened after a long holiday weekend.

Gold rose 1 % as the dollar and global equities dropped. Spot gold rose to a session high of $1,147.16 an ounce.