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August Maintains Reputation as a Downbeat Month for Stocks

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August: A Challenging Month for Wall Street

Wall Street is experiencing a tough time in the dog days of August. The S&P 500 is down over 3% this month, poised to break a five-month winning streak. The broader market index is on track to record its worst monthly performance since December, when it suffered a 5.9% loss. The Nasdaq Composite is also heading towards its biggest one-month decline since December, falling 5.2%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has declined 3% in August. This pullback is in stark contrast to the market rally witnessed earlier this year. The Nasdaq Composite achieved its best first-half performance in 40 years in 2023, while the S&P 500 had its strongest start to a year since 2021. Several factors are pressuring Wall Street at the moment, ranging from seasonal influences to concerns about the global economy and the Federal Reserve. Let's delve into the breakdown.

Tough Month for the S&P 500

This pattern of behavior in August is not surprising. Over the past decade, the S&P 500 has averaged a mere 0.1% gain for the month, making it the third-worst month for the index, according to CNBC Pro analysis of seasonal trends. Looking back 20 years, the performance worsens, with the S&P 500 averaging a monthly loss of 0.1% during August. There are several reasons behind the lackluster performance typically observed in the market during this month. One factor is lower trading volumes as traders and investors go on vacation before the summer ends. This decline in activity can lead to more volatile price swings. Additionally, many investors book profits in August to prepare for September, historically the worst month for the market. Over the past 20 years, the S&P 500 has averaged a 0.5% loss in September, while the average decline over the past 10 years is 1% each September.

Economic Data from China

Lackluster economic data from China has also contributed to market pressures. The world's second-largest economy reported weaker-than-expected retail sales growth for July, along with lower-than-anticipated industrial production. A slowdown in China's economy can have ripple effects on markets worldwide, including the United States, given the significant number of major corporations that rely on China as a key revenue source. Moreover, concerns about a potential real estate crisis in China have emerged. Heavily-indebted companies like Country Garden Holdings and Evergrande have faced significant challenges, with the latter filing for bankruptcy protection in the U.S. These developments prompted the Chinese central bank to cut interest rates this month. Analysts suggest that China needs a restructuring of its real estate market to address the issues at hand.

Federal Reserve and Monetary Policy

Another source of market pressure in August has been concerns that the Federal Reserve will maintain higher benchmark lending rates for longer than expected. This worry drove the 10-year Treasury note yield to its highest level since 2007 earlier this week. In its July meeting summary, the Federal Reserve acknowledged "upside risks" to inflation, indicating the potential for further rate hikes. With inflation approaching the Fed's 2% target, investors are eagerly awaiting Chairman Jerome Powell's speech at the annual economic symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for more insights into the central bank's future tightening plans. In conclusion, August has proven to be a challenging month for Wall Street, with various factors contributing to the market's downturn. Seasonal trends, economic data from China, and concerns about the Federal Reserve's monetary policy have all played a role in the market pressures observed. As investors await further guidance, the remainder of the month will likely continue to be closely monitored for any signs of a turnaround.

Conclusion: Implications for New Businesses

The current market downturn in August presents a challenging landscape for new businesses, especially those in the financial sector. This period of volatility, driven by a mix of seasonal trends, global economic concerns, and potential shifts in monetary policy, necessitates a strategic approach to business planning and risk management. New businesses, particularly startups, may find it harder to attract investment in such a climate. Investors, wary of the market's performance, could be more cautious about where they put their money. This could potentially slow down the growth of new businesses or delay their plans for expansion. Moreover, the economic slowdown in China, a major global economic player, could impact businesses that rely on the Chinese market for revenue or supply chain operations. The potential real estate crisis in China could further exacerbate these challenges. Lastly, the anticipation of higher benchmark lending rates from the Federal Reserve could increase borrowing costs for businesses. This could affect their financial planning and overall profitability. In conclusion, the current state of Wall Street in August underscores the importance of adaptability and resilience for new businesses. By closely monitoring these economic trends and adjusting strategies accordingly, new businesses can navigate these challenges and seek opportunities for growth.
Story First Published at: https://www.cnbc.com/2023/08/24/august-again-lives-up-to-its-reputation-as-a-downbeat-month-for-stocks.html
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