U.S. stocks edged mostly higher in choppy trading Monday, attempting to shake off worries about China’s property sector, a possible resurgence of U.S. inflation, and a weak start to August.
How stocks are trading
- The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA toggled between slight gains and losses, and was down 27 points, or 0.1%, in recent trade.
- The S&P 500 SPX rose 16 points, or 0.4%, to 4,480.
- The Nasdaq Composite COMP advanced 98 points, or 0.7%, to 13,743.
The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite logged back-to-back weekly losses on Friday, while the Dow bucked the trend to post a 0.6% gain.
What’s driving markets
Stocks traded mostly higher, despite worries about China’s property sector weighing on appetite for risky assets around the world earlier in the day. Country Garden Holdings Co. 2007, -18.37%, one of China’s biggest home builders, saw its shares plunge to another record low in Hong Kong trading on news it was suspending trading for at least 10 onshore bonds. The news added to fears about the health of the world’s second-biggest economy. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng HK:HSI closed down by 1.6%.
Concerns about a possible return of U.S. inflation also were in focus. Last Thursday’s consumer-price index report for July showed underlying core inflation easing over the past 12 months to 4.7% from 4.8%, and wasn’t enough to put a decisive end to worries about price gains. Then, on Friday, the July producer-price index came in hotter-than-expected. Rising gas prices added to concerns about where inflation could go in the months ahead.
“From our point of view, the market has started worrying about inflation again,” said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer for Independent Advisor Alliance in Charlotte, N.C., which manages roughly $10 billion in assets. “The feeling had been that inflation was in the rearview mirror and that we were past this, but there are now some concerns that inflation is stickier than expected. We’re seeing higher rates in the bond market, and those are impacting the stock market.”
Via phone, Zaccarelli said that “specifically, within the stock market, we’re seeing the more cyclical sector,” like energy companies, “underperforming even though tech and growth stocks appear to be doing better by comparison.”
Two- BX:TMUBMUSD02Y through 7-year Treasury yields BX:TMUBMUSD07Y remained higher Monday afternoon, as traders weighed the outlook for inflation at a time when gasoline prices are heading back up again. According to AAA, the national average price of regular gasoline is $3.851 a gallon as of Monday — up from $3.848 on Sunday, $3.829 a week ago, and $3.566 a month ago.
“There are two things going on that are not super-related,” said Tom Graff, head of investments at Baltimore-based Facet.
One is that “people are worried the very encouraging CPI number last week is another head fake on inflation because of the PPI report that came out relatively strong” the next day, he said via phone.
“The other concern is that, with the jobs number a few weeks ago, the economy could trend weaker,” Graff said. “We are not totally out of the woods when it comes to avoiding a more serious slowdown. You’ve had megacap tech companies lead the stock market higher earlier this year, and you need more traditional companies to catch up; if the economy is slowing, it will be hard for them to do that.”
On Friday, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite recorded their second straight week of losses, respectively shedding 2.6% and 4.7% in the process, after the rally in many big technology stocks such as Apple AAPL, +0.65% and Nvidia NVDA, +6.14% faltered.
Real-time inflation forecasting tools are now calling for inflation data to reaccelerate due partly to rising energy costs, according to strategists Jason Pride and Michael Reynolds at Glenmede, which manages $41.5 billion. They said that with the S&P 500 having surged over the first two quarters of this year and “trading sideways” over the past month, “current market levels and valuations do not appear commensurate with the outstanding risks.”
The second-quarter earnings season is winding down, with 91% of S&P 500 companies having reported, though retailers will be a feature in the coming days as Home Depot HD, -0.50%, Target TGT, -1.37% and Walmart WMT, -1.10% present their numbers. July retail-sales data is due Tuesday morning.
Companies in focus
- United States Steel Corp. X, +42.03% shares surged 32.7% after the company rejected an unsolicited $7.3 billion takeover bid by Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. CLF, +8.85% that would have reshaped the steel industry. U.S. Steel’s board rejected the offer on Sunday, calling the proposal “unreasonable.” Cleveland-Cliffs shares rose 9.7%.
- Shares of AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. AMC, -35.31% slumped 33.1% after a Delaware court’s decision on Friday to approve a revised, but still controversial, stock-conversion plan for the movie-theater chain. The ruling saw AMC preferred equity units APE, +18.26% jump 18%.
- Tesla Inc. TSLA, -1.61% shares fell 1.5% after the electric-vehicle maker cut the cost of two versions of its Model Y SUVs on Sunday.
Jamie Chisholm contributed.