U.S. stock benchmarks were on track to post the worst daily drop in more than two months, with the skid being blamed on the potential collapse of Evergrande. The Chinese property giant is threatening to default on $300 billion in debt that could ripple through global markets.
However, the sharp downturn by the highly leveraged real-estate sector, which the Financial Times notes makes up more than 28% of China’s economy, isn’t the only problem for markets on Monday.
Here are a few others.
The delta variant of COVID-19 is resulting in higher cases in the world’s largest economy.
The U.S. is now averaging more than 2,000 deaths daily, according to a New York Times tracker, the most since March 1, and consist almost entirely of unvaccinated people. Florida, which has vaccinated 56% of its population, is averaging 353 deaths a day. Texas, where 50% of the population is inoculated, is seeing 286 deaths a day, according to the Times. The two states account for more than 30% of all COVID-19 deaths since March 1.
Fed taper talk
Markets are fixated on the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee’s Sept. 21-22 meeting, where Fed officials facing the prospect of removing accommodations that have propped markets up since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., even as the economic rebound looks uneven.
The Fed has been buying $80 billion of Treasurys and $40 billion of mortgage-backed securities each month since last June to keep long-term interest rates low and bolster demand. It said it would maintain the purchases until the economy hit a threshold of “substantial” progress on inflation and the labor market and the question the market is weighing is whether the time for tapering those asset purchases is now.
A number of Fed officials have expressed a desire to announce tapering at its September meeting and begin the initiative before year-end, with an eye toward concluding it by 2022.
Investors are anxious about the timetable for such reductions and are also looking out for any signals of an interest-rate increase in 2022.
On Sunday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urged Congress to raise or suspend the nation’s debt ceiling or risk “widespread economic catastrophe.”
In an op-ed column published by The Wall Street Journal, Yellen noted that the U.S. has never defaulted, and said it must not now.
Congress has raised or suspended the debt limit about 80 times since 1960, Yellen said, and during the Trump administration Democrats agreed three times to suspend the debt ceiling.
The country’s accumulated debt is about $28.4 trillion.
There is a growing sense that valuations are rich and the Federal Reserve’s easy-money punchbowl will soon be yanked away at the worst possible time. Seasonally, September has been one of the worst months for stocks and investors think that the market might trade true to trend.
A correction is due
Strategists think that the market is due for a significant pullback as the S&P 500 has marked more than 200 sessions without a drawdown of 5% or more from a recent peak, making the current stretch of levitation the longest such since around 2016, when the market went 404 sessions without falling by at least 5% peak to trough.