Turmoil in Washington injected further pessimism into US stock markets on Friday, as the Nasdaq, Dow and S&P 500 kept pace for their worst month since 2009.
“The market continues to react to the possibility of a government shutdown, fear of a domestic and global slowdown and general displeasure about the direction of Fed policy,” said Ryan Larson, head of US equity trading at RBC Global Asset Management in Chicago.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq sank to a 15-month low, falling as much as 21.5% from its 29 August high. The benchmark S&P 500 index, already on pace for its biggest percentage decline in December since the Great Depression, hit its lowest level since August 2017. The Dow Industrials fell to the lowest level since October 2017.
All three indexes swung between losses and gains of more than 1%. They received a momentary boost after the New York Fed president, John Williams, said on CNBC that the Fed was open to reassessing its views and monitoring market signals that economic growth could fall short of expectations.
That news helped drive shares higher oversea: in London the FTSE closed nine points higher at 6,721. But those gains soon evaporated as economic worries again prevailed.
Williams’ dovish comments could point to hidden concerns among some Fed policymakers, said Tim Ghriskey, investment strategist at Inverness Counsel in New York.
“[Williams’ comments] helped the markets for a while early on, and then it was just a sell-off after that,” Ghriskey said. “Part of that is when the Fed says something like they’re re-looking at things, there’s a concern that maybe the Fed knows something that we don’t know.”