By: Adam Samson
January 29, 2013
U.S. equities sold off Wednesday after a series of central bank moves failed to reassure traders that emerging-market currency woes will be short-lived.
As of 10:13 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 112 points, or 0.7%, to 15816, the S&P 500 dipped 11.5 points, or 0.64%, to 1781 and the Nasdaq Composite slumped 27.7 points, or 0.67%, to 4070.
Central bank news was in the spotlight Wednesday. The Turkish central bank hiked rates far more than analysts expected Tuesday evening in a bid to protect its currency, the lira. Initially, the lira rallied 4% on the dramatic move. However, South Africa weighed in Wednesday with a 0.5 percentage point rate hike, also aimed at defending its currency, the rand.
South Africa’s rate increase “certainly wasn’t enough for the market as the rand is still down on the day to a 5-year low, said Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group.
Meanwhile, the lira gave up all of its gains for the day and turned red. Other currencies fell as well. Indeed, Russia’s ruble slid to a record low against a basket of world currencies, according to data from Bloomberg News.
“The volatility has been coming for a while but has intensified since the Fed started tapering in Dec.,” said Kenneth Broux, an analyst from Societe Generale. “The emergence of regional triggers based on economic or political instability have worsened the sell-off.”
Broux sees the volatility lasting for some time, especially as interest rates in the U.S. rise as the American economy improves and the Federal Reserve starts puling back on it stimulus.
The issues might not resolve themselves too quickly, either.
“These types of dislocations usually do not resolve themselves in hours or even days,” said Dan Greenaus, chief equity strategist at BTIG. “It takes time and we imagine the current situation will be similar.”
The concern is that as interest rates rise in the developed world, capital might move away from emerging markets, pressuring currencies and economies. Rate hikes could help boost traders’ appetite for riskier emerging debt and equities.
The Fed’s monetary-policy decision is due out at 2 p.m. ET. At the Fed’s last meeting it began paring back its bond-buying program by $10 billion a month, bringing the total purchases to $75 billion a month. Economists are mixed on whether the Fed will taper again or hold steady amid a string of lukewarm economic data and worries about emerging markets.
In corporate news, Boeing (BA) posted fourth-quarter results that topped analysts’ expectations. However, the aerospace giant revealed a considerably weaker-than-expected full-year outlook. Yahoo! (YHOO) also slid after the media company posted a tepid forward outlook.
There are no other major economic reports due out on the day.
In commodities, U.S. crude oil futures fell 10 cents, or 0.09%, to $97.32 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline jumped 0.94% to $2.653 a gallon. Gold rose $10.30, or 0.83%, to $1,261 a troy ounce.
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