Stocks fell for the second straight session, extending losses from Friday to open the new week.
Causes for the two-day selling spree are questionable, but Monday's New Home Sales release by the Commerce Department may be a good place to start. After surging in July, new home sales fell 7.6% nationally, following a July surge.
Perhaps even more troubling is that the median price of a new home sold in August was down 3.1% from July and down 5.3% from a year earlier.
That's a real problem because the home-selling business has been anything but brisk, though price increases were a good sign for the Federal Reserve, which is dying to find any hint of inflation (they love it; consumers hate it). Thus, if new homes are selling at a discount from the year earlier, one could probably safely assume that existing homes are seeing price pressure to the downside as well.
Extrapolating from what is normally regarded as the biggest single purchase in a person's life, the cost of a home (or rent) going lower is going to put the brakes on inflation in a very large way, perhaps in a way that many people looking to sell are not going to appreciate. Recall that the last housing bust was a scant eight years ago. There are still underwater homeowners in various stages of despair, though the numbers have eased significantly over the years.
A downturn in housing prices, while great for new buyers, are overall anathema for the economy. How that squares with Wall Street's ongoing love-hate affair with the Fed and the call for higher interest rates is as yet unknown, but, after last week's stall on raising rates there's the distinct possibility that the Fed has called the market's bluff for the final time.
A FOMC meeting is sceduled for the first week in November, just prior to the election, so there's almost zero probability that the Fed would raise rates at that point, upsetting not just the market but the political class as well. That leaves December as the last chance for the Fed to raise rates, and looking back at their last December hike (a market disaster), there's some thinking that the almighty Fed may not want to repeat that particular episode.
One other potentiality for the sudden downturn in stocks is that inside money is looking seriously at a Donald Trump victory in November. Tonight's first debate (of three) between the Donald and Hillary Clinton may be a watershed moment in US political history. The most recent polls have the two candidates nearly even, as Mr. Trump has eviscerated Clinton's large post-convention lead, especially in some key battleground states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida.
Why large investors may be nervous about a Trump victory is the gnawing, belly-aching suspicion that Trump may be good for small business but bad for big business. His platform is not well-formed, but, he has used the words "crony capitalism" to his populist advantage. It's code for "no more business as usual" which means many of the larger firms (think S&P 500) that have benefited from decades of competition-crushing regulations and legislation may be looking at a more level playing field which puts small businesses on a better footing, something with which they have no relevant experience. That opens up new possibilities that favor smaller competitors taking market share from larger ones, to the ultimate detriment of the US stock market, but probably to the betterment of the overall economy.
Not withstanding any other reasons to fear a Trump presidency, the elitists on Wall Street and in the nation's capitol simply do not know what to expect. That's why they're the status quo and Donald Trump spells big danger.
Another rationale for a market downturn is the continuing drama over keeping the federal government operating past this coming Friday. The president and congress are doing their usual dance of death surrounding a continuing resolution rater than an actual budget to avoid a government shutdown and the Friday deadline is looming large.
Lastly, this being the last week of September, maybe the marketeers are gearing up for an October to remember, as has occurred on numerous occasions in the past. Market crashes and corrections always seem to pop up in the harvest month, and this one offers even more uncertainty than usual.
Dow Jones Industrial Average
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