The U.S. stock market has seen a rocky start to the fourth quarter as economic anxieties both close to home and overseas have struck during a historically volatile time of year.
On Monday, several of the major averages clocked their worst days in months, with the S&P 500 dropping 1.7%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average declining 614 points, or 1.8%, and the Nasdaq dropping 2.2%.
On Tuesday, however, all three regained some ground early as investors moved in to buy the dip and some experts cautioned that market-moving fears were likely overblown. But by 2:30 p.m., the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down again, albeit very slightly. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq had rebounded slightly.
The sell-off early in the week was driven in part by worries over China’s largest property developer, Evergrande, which is reportedly at risk of default as interest payments come due on its $305 billion in liabilities. Its uncertain future has sent investors running and stoked concerns about the Chinese financial system more broadly. Many analysts, though, have expressed a more measured view of the situation.
“Beijing has demonstrated in recent years that it is fully able and willing to step in to stem widespread contagion when major financial/corporate institutions fail,” Alvin Tan, FX strategist at RBC Capital Markets, wrote in a research note quoted by Reuters.
The week’s volatility has also been heightened by anticipation of Wednesday’s monetary policy announcement by the Federal Reserve. The central bank is expected to discuss tapering its bond-buying program, a key mechanism supporting the country’s economic recovery, though it is unlikely to officially announce the move away from the program until November. Congress, meanwhile, is still in negotiations over suspending or raising the debt ceiling, which it will need to do before an October “drop-dead” date to avoid the U.S. government defaulting for the first time in history — though Republican lawmakers have so far threatened to oppose such measures.
Amid these macro pressures, StichFix Inc. and FedEx Corporation report quarterly earnings after the bell on Tuesday, while Nike Inc. and Costco Wholesale Corporation report on Thursday. XRT, the S&P Retail ETF, is down 4.27% in September following its substantial recovery from pandemic lows.