With major stock market indexes such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 erasing their 2018 gains on Monday, investors and even the White House are indeed starting to worry: Will the market fall further?
“We’re always concerned when the market loses any value,” a White House official told CNBC early Monday, adding, perhaps to allay any jitters, “But we’re also confident in the economy’s fundamentals.”
The U.S. stock market as measured by the Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500, and Nasdaq fell for the second day in a row Monday, due to rosier-than-expected wage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Friday—pushing up expectations of Federal Reserve rate hikes.
While workers may have embraced the news of some extra nine cents per hour, the Friday news also sent jitters up and down Wall Street—adding what is likely billions in losses to the stock market Monday.
Investors are concerned that the Fed may hike interest rates more aggressively this year if it thinks the U.S. economy is growing overheated. And higher wages, which may lead to greater spending and inflation, can be an indicator of that. The Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed Friday that wages had risen 2.9% to $26.74 an hour in December—up from the 2.6% economists were expecting. While that’s a boon for bond yields, it’s not always a winning combination for stocks. Companies may have to spend more to borrow funds, while their stocks may lose some of their pull as investors seek out less risky bonds.
The industrials-heavy Dow Jones index slid 1,100 points to 24,345 as of Monday’s close—putting it officially in the red for 2018. The S&P 500 shed 2.2%, falling to 2,702 points and erasing its 2018 gains. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite, meanwhile, was down 1% to 7,168—still just barely hanging onto its 2018 gains.
That adds to the $361 billion in losses Dow Jones Industrial companies have already posted between the market’s 2018 high on Jan. 26 and Friday, according to the most recent available data. For comparison, oil giant Exxon Mobil commands a market capitalization of about $360 billion to $6.8 trillion.
For a greater look at the magnitude of the losses, look to the S&P 500, which tracks about 500 companies compared to the Dow’s 30. Between Jan. 26 and Friday, stocks in that index lost $982 billion in market capitalization, for a total of around $24.5 trillion.
So is this a sign that a greater selloff is in the works?
Based on what analysts and investors are saying at the moment, the markets will continue upward slower than before—even though we haven’t hit the bottom just yet.
“We expect further downside in the near term as markets continue to digest these shocks, but ultimately we will trade to new highs as cooler heads prevail,” Morgan Stanley equity strategists led by Michael Wilson commented in a Monday note. “This should take several weeks, however, and we are in no rush to buy this dip as we wait for better technical signals.”
Investors are likely to wait for any surprises before jumping back into the market, says Denis Busschere of Evercore ISI in a note.
The recent selloff, says Torsten Slok, is also partly due to investors turning to less risky assets than equities.
“The allocation of money from risky assets to risk-free assets is going to be bumpy, as seen in markets today,” he wrote. “Fundamentally, we expect such episodic bouts of turbulence, but the underlying economic expansion will continue.”
Underlying this general lack of worry about the stock market’s direction is the fact that recent earnings have been strong, per company guidance.
“Whatever might be the short-term follow-up (or -down) on Friday’s drop, I remain bullish because the outlook for earnings remains very upbeat,” wrote Ed Yardeni of Yardeni Research. “Industry analysts have raised their consensus S&P 500 earnings estimate for 2018 by $9 per share over the past seven weeks to $155.26 during the week of February 2.”
That’s not to say everyone agrees that the bloodbath will be short-lived. Blackstone Group President Tony James commented that equities have reached full value at this point.
In an interview with CNBC, the billionaire said he expects markets to fall between 10 to 20% this year.