U.S. stocks waver amid monetary policy uncertainties, recession fears

Source: Xinhua| 2019-08-23 07:35:12|Editor: Liu
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NEW YORK, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) -- U.S. equities closed little changed as investors took a wait-and-see attitude amid monetary policy uncertainties and economic recession concerns.

The Dow was up 0.19 percent for the day, the S&P 500 fell 0.05 percent, and the Nasdaq decreased 0.36 percent.

The market was looking ahead of Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell's scheduled speech on Friday at the central bank's annual economic symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Investors hope that Powell will clarify the central bank's stance on interest rate cuts and confirm the expectation of a more accommodating monetary policy at the symposium.

The Fed cut interest rates by 25 basis points in late July for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis. While citing economic and trade uncertainties, Powell emphasized at a press conference following last month's meeting that the rate cut was only a "mid-cycle adjustment" rather than the start of a series of more accommodative policies.

According to the minutes of the central bank's July meeting that was released on Wednesday, Fed officials were divided over whether to cut interest rates.

"A couple of participants indicated that they would have preferred a 50 basis point cut in the federal funds rate at this meeting rather than a 25 basis point reduction," said the minutes.

These participants favored a stronger action to better address the stubbornly low inflation rates of the past several years, according to the minutes.

The minutes said several others were in favor of leaving interest rates unchanged at last month's meeting, judging that the real economy continued to be in a good place.

Michael Pearce, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, said in a note that the minutes did little to clear up the confusion as to exactly why the Fed is cutting interest rates, leaving the impression that policymakers are just taking their cue from the bond markets.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury note briefly traded under the 2-year note, the third time the recession indicator has been triggered since last Wednesday.

The so-called yield curve inversion is seen as a recession signal by many investors, and the bond market move reflects investors' concerns that the Fed will not act aggressively to cut interest rates.

The Kansas City Fed President Esther George and Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker told CNBC on Thursday that they don't see the case for additional interest rate cuts after the central bank's latest rate cut in July.

Analysts have noted the possibility that Powell will push back against market expectations for another 100 basis points of rate cuts by the end of 2020 on Friday.

Market expectations for another rate cut in September are still at 91.2 percent, according to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group's FedWatch tool.

Meanwhile, The U.S. manufacturing purchasing managers' index (PMI) was 49.9 in August, down from 50.4 in July and below the neutral 50.0 threshold for the first time since September 2009, according to IHS Markit on Thursday. Any reading below 50 signals a contraction.

Tim Moore, economics associate director at IHS Markit, said in a statement that August's survey data provides a clear signal that economic growth has continued to soften in the third quarter.

"The PMIs for manufacturing and services remain much weaker than at the beginning of 2019 and collectively point to annualized GDP growth of around 1.5 percent," said Moore.

"Manufacturing companies continued to feel the impact of slowing global economic conditions, with new export sales falling at the fastest pace since August 2009," he added.

The sharp fall, which was driven by declines in both the manufacturing and services components, suggests that the case for further rate cuts will build over the coming months, according to Capital Economics in a note.

The weak economic data added to market's lingering fears for an economic recession.