Tom Sowanick is co-president and chief investment officer at Omnivest Group in Princeton, N.J.
It was another difficult week for global equity markets with the S&P 500 Index losing 4.6 percent, developed markets losing 4.2 percent and emerging markets losing only 1.9 percent.
Fears of a global slowdown were led by much weaker than expected New York Empire Manufacturing Index and Philadelphia Manufacturing Index, which both dropped by 7.7 and 30.7, respectively. The Philadelphia Index posted its sharpest drop since the first quarter of 2009 and conjured fears of a potential repeat of the 2008-2009 economic meltdown.
Such fears also helped to push Treasury yields to new secular lows with the 10-year bond yield falling 19.25 basis points (bps) to 1.97 percent, briefly, before closing the week at 2.06 percent. The 30-year bond yield also fell sharply with a decline of 33.52 bps. Unlike the equity markets that posted broad declines, yield spread movement in the corporate bond market was more subdued. In fact, high-yield bond spreads closed the week 1 bp narrower, while investment grade bond spreads widened by 5 bps.
The strongest performing asset class for the week was precious metals led by silver with a gain of nearly 9.7 percent, followed by gold with a gain of 6.0 percent. This is consistent with the weakness of the U.S. dollar which lost nearly 1 percent on the week.
The Japanese yen reached a new high vs. the U.S. dollar -- an odd victory for such a debt-laden country. Perhaps the real strength behind the Japanese yen has been a repatriation of funds back to Japan.
If there is a positive note to be found this past week, it is in knowing that the S&P 500 Index did not fall below its previous intraday low of 1101 -- set on August 10th-- which appears to have been corroborated with the stable performance of the high-yield bond market for the week.
This week we will lead off with the quarterly report on mortgage delinquencies to be released on Monday, August 22nd, followed by New Home Sales and the Richmond Manufacturing Index on Tuesday, August 23rd. On Wednesday, Durable Goods Orders will be released with an expectation of a 2.1 percent increase.
Initial Jobless Claims on Thursday will be followed by Friday’s GDP second revision.
Also, attention will be focused on Jackson Hole Wyoming, where the Federal Reserve will be holding its annual economic symposium. Currently, the market is expecting some utterance from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke that will calm recent market volatility. It will be exactly one year ago on August 27th when Bernanke hinted at QE2. A hint of QE3 could usher in a very explosive global equity rally.