Both the American and European benchmarks posted their biggest weekly losses since the darkest days of December’s sell-off, with the S&P 500 dropping 2.2 per cent. While the week ended with the European Central Bank’s dovish turn and President Donald Trump predicting a “very big spike” in US markets once a trade deal with China is reached, stock declines were a sign that after a sharp two-month rally, risk appetite has weakened and the bar for positive surprises has been raised.
Reality is starting to bite. Riskier stocks are falling back to Earth. Investors are pulling money from equities and pouring it in bonds. And trend-following quantitative funds are cutting their US equity positions.
Blame macro. It’s nothing new to bond traders, but as positive catalysts from a pause in US tightening to trade optimism look increasingly priced in, the deteriorating economic picture has become harder to ignore. US jobs data missed consensus estimates by a wide mark on Friday, plunging to the weakest in more than a year.
“A kind of trade deal will support the market, but once the deal has been announced with all details, market participants will re-focus on PMIs and corporate earnings again,” said Petra Pflaum, co-head of EMEA equities at DWS Group GmbH, which oversees the equivalent of about $744 billion. “Global indicators have been weaker than expected, and that’s raising alarm bells.”
Another ominous signal is flashing in the Dow Jones Transportation Average, which fell for an 11th consecutive session Friday to cap its longest streak of losses in 47 years. Because they form the infrastructure on which commerce is conducted and provide clues about the strength of the economy, weakness among trucking companies, shippers and airlines is often viewed as