Asian stocks post mixed performance ahead of Christmas holiday
South Korea’s Kospi slipped 0.31 percent to close at 2,055.01, despite industry heavyweight Samsung Electronics and chipmaker SK Hynix gaining 0.39 percent and 0.67 percent, respectively.
Australia’s ASX 200, which closed at 11:10 a.m. HK/SIN ahead of the upcoming Christmas holiday, finished the trading day higher by 0.48 percent at 5,493.8, with almost all sectors seeing gains.
The heavily weighted financial subindex saw gains of 0.43 percent, as shares of Australia’s so-called Big Four banks rose. Commonwealth Bank of Australia advanced 0.25 percent, Westpac gained 0.13 percent, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group climbed up by 0.26 percent while National Australia Bank rose 0.31 percent.
The Japanese markets were closed for a public holiday.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index, which closed at 12 p.m. HK/SIN today ahead of the upcoming Christmas holiday, fell 0.4 percent to 25,651.38 as shares of Chinese tech giant Tencent shed 1.46 percent.
China’s Ministry of Commerce said on Sunday that vice-ministerial level talks on issues such as the balance of trade and strengthening of intellectual property protections had been held earlier with the U.S. last week.
In a statement posted on its website, the ministry said the two sides had a “deep exchange” of views and achieved new progress. It also said both parties held discussions around their next call and the reciprocal visits.
Asia-Pacific Market Indexes Chart
|NIKKEI||Nikkei 225 Index||NIKKEI||20166.19||-226.39||-1.11|
|HSI||Hang Seng Index||HSI||25651.38||-102.04||-0.40|
|ASX 200||S&P/ASX 200||ASX 200||5493.80||26.20||0.48|
|CNBC 100||CNBC 100 ASIA IDX||CNBC 100||7196.29||-19.99||-0.28|
The moves came on the back of a tumultuous week which saw the Dow experiencing its worst week in more than a decade.
The Dow lost 1,655 points, or 6.8 percent, last week for its worst week since October 2008 during the financial crisis. The S&P 500 lost 7 percent for the week and is now down 17.8 percent from its record reached earlier in the year, putting it on the brink of a bear market. The Nasdaq Composite Index is now 22 percent below its record reached in August, a bear market.
Last week, the U.S. Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate for a fourth time this year and Chairman Jerome Powell signaled the central bank would continue to unwind its balance sheet at the current pace, two monetary tightening actions that traders say are driving the stock market declines.
The Japanese yen, widely seen as a safe haven currency, traded at 111.05 after touching lows around 113.5 in the previous trading week. The Australian dollar was at $0.7061 after seeing highs around $0.720 last week.
— CNBC’s John Melloy contributed to this report.
European stocks close lower in shortened session; French CAC drops 1.5%
The FTSE 100 closed down 0.6 percent during a shortened session before the Christmas holidays, while the French CAC 40 slipped 1.5 percent. Germany's DAX and the Italian FTSE MIB were not open on Monday.
In corporate news, BMW was hit by the South Korean government with a 11.2 billion won ($9.96 million) fine on Monday, and faces a complaint over allegedly delaying recalls and concealing defects that resulted in engine fires in the country.
On Friday, stocks stateside plunged, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average suffering its worst week since the 2008 crisis, the Nasdaq Composite slipped into a bear market and the S&P on the verge of one itself.
Meanwhile, political drama stateside will be another area of focus for traders, with the government facing a partial shutdown that is likely to last until at least Dec. 27, according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin held calls with top U.S. bankers over the weekend following the recent slide in equities, and made plans to convene a group of officials sometimes referred to as the "Plunge Protection Team."
Clarification: Germany's DAX index and the Italian FTSE MIB were not open on Monday.
Dow dives 600 points to below 22,000, S&P 500 enters bear market - worst Christmas Eve ever
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped by 653 points Monday in volatile trading, falling below 22,000. The Dow sank more than 2 percent, then recovered nearly all of the day’s losses, before again falling more than 2 percent. The S&P 500 fell 2.7 percent, slipping into a bear market as it fell 20.06 percent from recent highs. Wall Street traditionally considers a drop of 20 percent or more from recent highs to be a bear market. The Nasdaq Composite Index slid 2.2 percent.
Markets responded to turmoil in Washington. Multiple reports said President Donald Trump is discussing how to remove Jerome Powell from his position as chairman of the Federal Reserve. That discussion, as well as the recent market volatility, spurred Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to call the leaders of the six largest U.S. banks over the weekend. Additionally, Defense Secretary James Mattis announced he would step down at the end of February, saying his views do not align with the president’s.
Trump resumed his attack on the Fed on Monday, tweeting that the central bank is “the only problem” with the U.S. economy.
“They don’t have a feel for the Market,” Trump said.
All 11 sectors of the S&P 500 are now negative for December, the fourth quarter and the full year.
Last week the Dow lost 1,655 points, or 6.8 percent. That was the Dow’s worst week of trading since October 2008 during the financial crisis. The S&P 500 also lost 7 percent for the week. The Nasdaq Composite is now 22 percent below its record reached in August and is in a bear market.
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“The key question is whether the market of stellar returns is going to a market of slow or stalling returns,” Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial, told CNBC.
“This is a market selling off as if it believes that we are headed in to a stall. Exacerbating that is the thesis that the Federal Reserve’s policies are leading us to a hard landing, rather than a soft landing,” Krosby said.
Last Wednesday, the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate for a fourth time this year and Chairman Jerome Powell signaled the central bank would continue to unwind its balance sheet at the current pace. The two monetary tightening actions are driving the stock market declines, traders say.
Mnuchin tweeted that he spoke with the president. Mnuchin declared that Trump said he never suggested firing Powell and doesn’t believe he has the right to do so.
Mnuchin held calls on Sunday with the heads of the six largest U.S. banks in order to reassure nervous investors that the financial markets and economy were functioning properly.
“The banks all confirmed ample liquidity is available for lending to consumer and business markets,” the statement from the Treasury said.
Wall Street is processing Mnuchin’s call, which seems “to raise more questions than answers,” Raymond James analyst Ed Mills said in a note. Mills thinks it is unclear why the Treasury secretary hosted the call, “as no one had seemed to raise any concerns related to these issues of which Mnuchin is seeking to reassure the market,” Mills said.
December is typically a buoyant month for stocks. Yet both the Dow and S&P 500 are down more than 14 percent this month -- on track for their worst December performances since the Great Depression in 1931.
Oppenheimer equity analyst John Stoltzfus said in a note Monday that “putting the recent equity market declines into historical context lessens their sting.” The three catalysts which pushed the market lower in 2015 and 2016 -- China, the Federal Reserve, and oil -- are roiling “the market yet again in 2018,” Stoltzfus said.
“I think there’s a massive gap between sentiment and fundamentals” for the market, Blackstone investment strategist Joe Zidle said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
“The markets are saying there’s a greater than 50 percent chance we enter a recession and fundamentals don’t support it and fundamentals win,” Zidle said.
Also weighing on investor confidence is a government shutdown, that on through at least Thursday.
Both the Dow and the S&P 500 are now in the red for 2018 by more than 10 percent. Some traders have suggested that the market has gotten to the point where a short-term bounce could occur, if only for technical reasons. Seasonally, this is usually a positive, or at least benign, time for the markets.
The next worst Christmas Eve for the Dow and S&P 500 was in 1985, when both indexes fell a little over 0.6 percent.
The NYSE closed early on Monday at 1 p.m. ET. The exchange is closed on Tuesday for Christmas day. Wednesday through Friday are normal trading days.
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