Week in Review: Red October – Equities, Cryptos Take the Plunge

Global equity markets sold off sharply this week, as rising bond yields and a weaker growth outlook rattled investors’ appetite for riskier assets. The shift to risk-off mode benefited gold but not cryptocurrencies, as the latter market booked an 11-figure plunge on Thursday.

China was the center of the storm this week as investors returned from Golden Week celebrations to disappointing economic data, escalating trade tensions and an insufficient response from central bank policy.

Bull Market in Jeopardy

After recording their best quarter in five years, U.S. stocks have experienced multiple steep declines to start October. This culminated on Wednesday and Thursday with a 1,300-point plunge in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, marking the worst two-day stretch since February. The broader S&P 500 Index also fell to more than three-month lows, which triggered a sharp rise in volatility.

The CBOE VIX, Wall Street’s preferred measure of investor anxiety, spiked above 26 this week en route to its highest level in six months. The so-called fear gauge tracks inversely with S&P 500 Index futures roughly 75% of the time.

Wall Street’s dramatic declines triggered even bigger losses for China’s benchmark indexes, which on Thursday plunged to multi-year lows. The Shanghai Composite Index experienced a modest rally on Friday but still ended the week with a loss of 7.6%. Markets in Europe, Japan, Canada and Australia also ended firmly lower.

IMF Downgrades Outlook

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has downgraded its outlook on global growth, citing rising import tariffs as a primary concern. The Washington-based lending institution lowered its outlook on global, Chinese and U.S. economic growth by 0.2 percentage point each for 2019. At 6.2%, China’s expansion is forecast to be the weakest since 1990.

A tit-for-tat trade war with the United States only exacerbates China’s broad economic slowdown, which began several years ago when Beijing embarked on a slow transition away from smokestack industries toward consumption. Although Beijing has responded to the Trump administration’s tariff policy, it will not be able to match duties on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

As Hacked reported Thursday, President Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping are scheduled to hold high-level trade talks at the upcoming Group of 20 summit in November. Both sides were planning in-depth negotiations last month before the U.S. enacted a new round of tariffs targeting $200 billion of Chinese goods.

Cryptocurrencies Fall but Bitcoin Maintains Support

After weeks of relative calm, cryptocurrencies experienced a brisk selloff Thursday. More than $16 billion was wiped from the combined market capitalization with bitcoin, Ethereum and other major assets leading the declines.

There was no immediate catalyst for the sudden reversal, though the pattern of quick declines following relative calm have been observed before. Cryptocurrencies are struggling to make new technical breakthroughs despite improving fundamentals.

Despite the loss, bitcoin continues to defend $6,000 – a critical level that is commonly associated with the cost of mining the virtual currency. The 6% drop on Thursday dragged prices to the low $6,200 region before recovering 24 hours later.

Week-on-week, the cryptocurrency market cap is down roughly $18 billion. However, trading volumes are up slightly.

The Week Ahead

All eyes will be on government bond yields next week as investors continue to evaluate the impact of rising interest rates on the market. Despite a sharp drop mid-week, the yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S Treasury note continues to show upside potential. According to Jeffrey Gundlach, the so-called “bond king,” the benchmark yield could make it to 3.6% in the short term.

“If you look at the charts and you look at the way the market’s behaving and you think about the trends that are underneath the bond market, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see the 30-year go to 4% before this move of the breakout above 3.25 percent is over,” Gundlach told CNBC Thursday.

Until now, cryptocurrencies like bitcoin have not benefited from safe-haven demand amid the broad market downturn. It remains to be seen whether mainstream investors will find comfort in bitcoin’s status as a non-correlated asset should bond yields continue to pressure stocks.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Chief Editor to Hacked.com and Contributor to CCN.com, Sam Bourgi has spent the past nine years focused on economics, markets and cryptocurrencies. His work has been featured in and cited by some of the world's leading newscasts, including Barron's, CBOE and Forbes. Avid crypto watchers and those with a libertarian persuasion can follow him on twitter at @hsbourgi