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US Markets' Downturn Accelerates on Friday


Trader Tommy Kalikas, left, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Sept. 6, 2016.

Trader Tommy Kalikas, left, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Sept. 6, 2016.

U.S. equities traded at the lowest level since June 27 (after the Brexit vote), with the Dow Jones industrial average down nearly 400 points. As a result, the three major averages ended the week lower, even though the NASDAQ broke record highs on Wednesday.

In fact, the Dow was on track for its worst week since January.

The weakness can be attributed to concerns following a nuclear test by North Korea, plunging crude oil prices and comments by Federal Reserve officials that hinted at a U.S. interest rate hike.

Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren, a historically dovish policymaker, said the U.S. central bank faces increasing risks if it waits too much longer to raise interest rates, and it should gradually tighten monetary policy. The next interest rate decision date is September 21.

All 10 of the S&P 500 sectors were down, with telecom and utilities leading the way, while tech and financials relatively outperformed. The telecom and utility sectors have been strong in 2016 because investors have been using the strong dividends as income sources, since bonds and other fixed-income instruments' yields are so low.

With Friday’s action, however, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note jumped to the highest level since June, and the U.S. dollar almost made up all its losses on the week. German 10-year yields rose above zero for the first time since July, after the European Central Bank also took a more hawkish tone and downplayed the need for additional stimulus.

Prior to Friday’s move, U.S. equities have been mired in trendless, range-bound trading for nearly two months. The S&P 500 had closed 44 consecutive days within 1 percent of an all-time high — an extremely long time. The last time the S&P did that was in 1995, at 48 straight days, and 1965 saw a 47-day streak, according to LPL Financial.

Trading week ahead

Early in the week, the focus will be on a trio of Fed speakers (Brainard, Lockhart and Kashkari) ahead of the quiet period before the September 20-21 Federal Open Market Committee meeting.

Key economic data include; Philadelphia and New York manufacturing, August readings on small business sentiment, retail sales, Consumer Price Index and industrial production.

The earnings calendar is essentially empty until the third-quarter season, which ramps up in the second week of October.

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