U.S. stocks on Tuesday rebounded from their worst day of the year after Chinese efforts to stabilize the yuan reassured nervous investors that a global currency war had not been declared.
All three major U.S. stock indices halted a multi-day losing streak that had erased hundreds of billions in shareholder wealth.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 311 points to close at 26,029, or 1.21 percent. Nike, Walt Disney Co., United Technologies and Cisco Systems led the blue chip recovery back from its 767-point drop on Monday. Closely watched Apple clawed back some of its August losses, rising 1.9 percent.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index advanced 1.3 percent to close at 2,881, with the technology sector up 1.68 percent after getting obliterated in Monday’s sell-off. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite surged 1.39 percent with video game holding company Take-Two Interactive climbing 8 percent after its earnings crushed expectations. The semiconductor and microchip sectors gave the Nasdaq its biggest push upward.
Though China emphatically rejected the Treasury Department’s move to label it a currency manipulator, the Chinese central bank nudged the yuan’s daily price target slightly weaker Tuesday morning, but not past the symbolically significant 7-per-dollar threshold that it allowed the currency to tumble beyond on Monday. Chinese authorities also announced they would sell yuan-denominated debt in Hong Kong next week, a move seen as propping up the currency.
“The market overreacted Monday to concerns that the trade war would turn into a currency war as well," said Ed Yardeni, president of Yardeni Research “The Chinese have made it clear they don’t want to see a significant devaluation of their currency, which could trigger massive outflows and would be bad for the Chinese economy. So when the currency stabilized, investors jumped in.”
The move rattled investors, sending the Dow tumbling as much as 961 points Monday before scraping back to its 767-point deficit at the finish.
Last week, after his chief trade negotiators returned from Beijing, President Trump shocked the globe by announcing tariffs on the remaining $300 billion in Chinese imports, starting at 10 percent on Sept. 1. Investors recoiled as the trade conflict that has dragged down the two most powerful economies for more than a year moved even further from resolution, spurring the sell-off that gave Wall Street its worst week of the year.
The carnage continued Monday after China struck back with its currency announcement, which officials from the nation’s central bank characterized as a direct response to “unilaterism, trade protectionism” and the latest round of impending tariffs. Allowing the yuan to depreciate makes Chinese goods cheaper for U.S. consumers, and American goods more costly in China.
Fear was rampant on Wall Street. The massive sell-off wiped more than 2 percent off the collective net worth of the world’s 500 wealthiest people, according to reporting from Bloomberg. Meanwhile, investors flocked to the safety of gold and the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond, while the volatility index, VIX, soared 30 percent.
The impact rippled through global markets all the way through Tuesday. The Hong Kong Hang Seng Index, Japan’s Nikkei and tech-heavy Shanghai Composite closed down two days in a row on Tuesday. Europe was down across the board. The pan-Europe Stoxx 600 dropped 0.5 percent.
Trump lashed out at China on Twitter, repeating claims of currency manipulation, which were echoed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin hours later when he pledged to ask the International Monetary Fund “to eliminate the unfair competitive advantage created by China’s latest actions,” Treasury said in a statement.
Mnuchin’s appeal is unlikely to find much traction with the IMF, which found last month in its latest annual assessment that China’s financial position “was broadly in line with the level consistent with medium-term fundamentals and desirable policies.”
Experts have warned that the designation is not warranted, because market forces have driven the yuan to weaker levels rather than Chinese intervention, and have cautioned that the nation does not cow to Trump’s threats. In an interview with Bloomberg Tuesday, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said didn’t think the department was justified in labeling China a currency manipulator.
“When you are propping up your currency, not running a trade surplus, you’re not manipulating the currency on any definition that is understood and accepted in the financial community,” Summers said.
As he often does, Trump took to Twitter Tuesday in an effort to bolster confidence in the strength of the U.S. economy amid the fallout from his trade policies, touting unspecified amounts of money “pouring in” from China and companies moving to the U.S. in “big numbers.”
He also tried to shore up the confidence of farmers, after China announced Monday it would be suspending all purchases of U.S. agricultural products in response to the new tariffs.
“As they have learned in the last two years, our great American Farmers know that China will not be able to hurt them in that their President has stood with them and done what no other president would do — And I’ll do it again next year if necessary!”
After months of insisting that a deal was imminent, Trump’s trade rhetoric has recently shifted to suggest that resolution with China might not come until after the 2020 election. But in an interview with CNBC Tuesday, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said that, while Trump is “very unhappy” with China’s reversals and the progress of his negotiators, he’s still looking to make a deal.
“We’re planning for the Chinese team to come here in September,” Kudlow said. “The President has said if you make a good deal -- good progress on a deal, maybe he’ll be flexible on the tariffs. On the other hand, if there’s no progress on the deal, then the tariffs might get worse. But he’s open to it.”