A wild ride for global markets this week was set to end in the red but more subdued. U.S. stocks opened lower Friday after surging a day earlier on China’s announcement of new stimulus measures to check its rapidly cooling economy, which has spooked the markets.
“It’s a Friday in August at the end of a wild week, so it wouldn’t surprise me if we ended down today coming off huge gains over the last two days,” said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services. “Unlike the last eight days, the next week or two could see a net gain of flat to up with a lot of heart palpitations.”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) opened down 62.50 points, or 0.38 percent, to 16,592.27. The Standard & Poor's 500 index (INDEXSP:.INX) was down 3.18 points, or 0.16 percent, to 1,984.70. And the Nasdaq composite (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) shed 6.19 points, or 0.16 percent, to 4,804.63.
Data released Friday morning on consumer confidence shows Americans’ outlook for the U.S. economy at a three-month low. The University of Michigan consumer sentiment index for August fell to 91.9 from 93.1 in July, largely because of a big drop in the last half of the month as consumers watched stocks plunge over rising concerns about the Chinese economy, the world’s second largest.
European stocks were headed toward closing slightly down. The German Dax was in the red by 0.67 percent while France’s CAC 40 dipped 0.28 percent. Japan’s Nikkei rallied 3.03 percent after Tokyo reported a drop in unemployment and data showing a diminished risk of Japan falling back into deflation. Shanghai’s benchmark index increased nealy 5 percent after the People’s Bank of China announced it would inject 140 billion yuan ($22 billion) into the financial system in a new easing effort.
U.S. stocks got a little boost in premarket trading after U.S. Department of Commerce data released before markets opened Friday showed Americans had a little more money to spend. U.S. personal income increased 0.4 percent and consumer spending rose 0.3 percent in July.
This data is the Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation, a key metric that will determine when the Fed will decide to raise interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade. The data shows core inflation dipped slightly to 1.7 percent, below the Fed’s 2 percent target it considers the minimum needed to avoid deflationary risks to the economy. The Fed has said the economy needs to be swinging toward 2 percent before it decides to raise the cost of borrowing across the economy.
The next chance to see the direction of U.S. monetary policy will come this weekend when central bankers convene in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s annual economic symposium. Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen is skipping the event, but Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer will offer the latest insight into the Fed’s outlook.
Oil prices were trading lower Friday after surging more than 10 percent on Thursday in their best day since March 2009. U.S. crude was down 1.1 percent to $42.09 a barrel while Brent, the global oil benchmark, fell 1.37 percent to $46.91. Prices under $50 are considered too low for U.S. drilling to be profitable.