Stocks drubbed and yen gains as U.S. housing teeters

By Al Yoon

NEW YORK (BestGrowthStock) – World stocks fell to one-month lows on Tuesday and the yen hit a 15-year high as dismal U.S. housing data added to fears the global economic recovery would fizzle out.

Pessimism about global growth has grown infectious in recent weeks after lackluster U.S. employment and consumer reports. Fears were affirmed on Tuesday by a report showing U.S. existing house sales slid way more than expected in July after the government ended homebuyer tax credits.

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago President Charles Evans said he was concerned about the strength of the U.S. recovery but saw a return to recession as unlikely.

Earlier, a Bank of England policymaker said the UK risked sliding back into recession, adding to broader risk aversion. The comments drove 10-year British government bond yields near record lows and 30-year German Bund yields to all-time lows as investors sought safety. Bond yields move inversely to prices.

“The wheels are coming off the recovery,” said Keith Springer, president of Capital Financial Advisory Services in Sacramento, California.

In New York, major indexes closed at their lowest levels in seven weeks.

The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI: ) slumped 133.96 points, or 1.32 percent, to 10,040.45. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (.SPX: ) lost 15.49 points, or 1.45 percent, to 1,051.87 and the Nasdaq Composite Index (.IXIC: ) fell 35.87 points, or 1.66 percent, to 2,123.76.

The bearish tone deepened after the U.S. housing report. It showed July sales of existing homes dropped a record 27.2 percent from June to an annual rate of 3.83 million units. Analysts polled by Reuters expected sales would fall 12 percent to 4.7 million.

“The problem that pushed us into recession to some degree still remains: There’s still imbalance in the housing market,” said Zach Pandl, an economist at Nomura Securities International in New York. “Even after four years of declines, housing remains the key threat to the (economic) recovery.”

Economically sensitive companies were the biggest drags on the Dow, including plane maker Boeing (BA.N: ), which fell 3.7 percent to $60.93. Banks were also among hardest hit, with the KBW Bank index (.BKX: ) down 2.2 percent.

Home building and related stocks slipped but came off their lows after hitting technical support.

Major European shares (.FTEU3: ) shed more than 1.6 percent and the MSCI world equity index (.MIWD00000PUS: ) fell 1.4 percent to its lowest since July 20. The Thomson Reuters global stock index (.TRXFLDGLPU: ) was 1.2 percent lower.

Japan’s Nikkei average (.N225: ) fell 1.3 percent, dipping below the closely watched 9,000 mark for the first time in 15 months, pressured by selling from hedge funds and foreigners.

The Nikkei index has shed nearly 15 percent so far this year, compared with a 2.6 percent fall in the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index. The 9,000-9,100 range had been strong support for the benchmark Nikkei since last year.

BUOYANT YEN

The yen reached a 15-year high against the dollar and a nine-year peak against the euro on fears the global economy was slowing.

The yen continued its rise as Japanese Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda resisted market pressure to comment on possible currency intervention. [ID:nTOE67N066] It briefly pared gains after a Nikkei Business Daily report said Japan’s Ministry of Finance may consider unilateral yen-selling market interventions to break speculative trades. [ID:nN24264334].

The dollar fell as low as 83.57 yen. It was last trading at 84.12, for a loss of 1.12 percent.

“Unless the Japanese step in with something more definitive, we will see speculative accounts drive the dollar/yen down to 80 yen,” said Paul Robson, RBS Global Banking currency strategist. “That will hurt the Japanese economy pretty hard, unless they do something more on the fiscal side or resort to more quantitative easing.”

The euro rose 0.13 percent to $1.2675, rebounding after the U.S. housing report.

The scramble for less-risky assets sent the 10-year and 30-year German Bund yields down more than 0.1 percentage point to record lows at 2.18 percent and 2.79 percent respectively.

Benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury yields declined 0.1 percentage point to 2.50 percent after earlier sliding to a 17-month low of 2.47 percent.

“The market is looking for any sign of weakness … There’s so much bearishness around the U.S. economy at the moment and that’s casting a pall over equity markets and helping government bonds,” said Nick Stamenkovic, strategist at RIA Capital Markets.

In commodities, U.S. light sweet crude oil fell $1.70, or 2.33 percent, to $71.40 per barrel, as doubts about the U.S. ability to consume record stocks weighed on sentiment.

Gold rose $7.05, or 0.58 percent, to $1230.40.

(Additional reporting by Emelia Sithole-Matarise, William James and Anirban Nag in London and Leah Schnurr, Vivianne Rodrigues and Rodrigo Campos in New York; Editing by Dan Grebler)

Stocks drubbed and yen gains as U.S. housing teeters