China Roils Markets for Second Day as Yuan Tumbles With Stocks

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Yuan Tumble Tests China’s Free-Market Resolve

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index reversed a 1.5 percent decline as investors turned to U.S. shares after China’s shock currency devaluation spurred a global equity selloff. Gold rallied while the dollar retreated.

The S&P 500 ended the session little changed by 4 p.m. in New York, recovering after dipping below its average price for the past 200 days and briefly erasing its gain for the year. The rebound came too late for European stocks, which plunged 2.7 percent for the biggest one-day rout since October. While China’s yuan led a slide in Asian currencies, the yen and euro advanced. Gold climbed a fifth day amid a rebound in metals.

The dollar gave up some of this week’s gains as investors speculated the yuan’s depreciation will sap inflation globally, throwing the outlook for higher U.S. interest rates into question. The greenback’s retreat also ignited a rebound in some raw materials, after commodities returned to a 13-year low amid China’s actions. Energy stocks led the S&P 500 rally.

“It’s been like a spectator sport today,” Tim Dreiling, senior portfolio manager at the Private Client Reserve of US Bank in Kansas City, said by phone. The firm oversees about $127 billion. “Anytime over the last few years we get a disruption or tiny catalyst to take risk off the table, we get a hiccup and once the concerns abate throughout the trading day, capital comes in and gives some support.”

Apple, Energy

The last time the S&P 500 erased an intraday decline of at least 1.5 percent was on May 23, 2012. Energy and utility shares rallied more than 1.5 percent, while Apple jumped 1.5 percent after earlier sliding as much as 3.4 percent. Declines in phone and bank shares led losses.

The S&P 500 has closed below its 200-day moving average only two times in 2015. The gauge has advanced 1.3 percent this year as it remains stuck in the tightest trading range since 1927.

“I’m a strictly fundamental investor so saying this is blasphemy, but today has been a very technically-driven market,” Scott Wren, the senior equity strategist who helps oversee $1.4 trillion at Wells Fargo Advisors LLC in St. Louis, said by phone. “The market has been looking for things to worry about, locked in a tight trading range for six months, and not following through lower on the 200-day moving average, that was important.”

Emerging Rout

China’s decision on Tuesday to devalue the yuan and shift to a more market-determined reference rate sparked concern the slowdown in Asia’s largest economy could be worse than previously thought and that it could spill over into European and American markets.

Selling continued in equities outside the U.S. Wednesday, with the Stoxx Europe 600 Index down 2.7 percent, and the MSCI Emerging Markets Index tumbling 1.9 percent, deepening its descent into a bear market.

Emerging-market currencies also took hits. Vietnam widened the trading band on the dong, underscoring the risk of competitive devaluations that’s dragging down exchange rates from Brazil to South Korea.

The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index, a gauge of the greenback against 10 major peers, slipped 0.8 percent to a three-week low as European currencies led developed-market gains. Yields on 10-year Treasury notes rose one basis point, or 0.01 percentage point, to 2.15 percent after sliding nine basis points Tuesday.

Goldman’s View

Traders pushed down the odds of a September rate increase by the Federal Reserve to about 40 percent Wednesday, from 54 percent as recently as Aug. 7, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

China’s devaluation is designed to cushion the yuan from strengthening along with the dollar amid projections for tighter monetary policy in the U.S., according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

“This is about Fed liftoff most obviously and further dollar strength,” Robin Brooks, chief currency strategist at Goldman Sachs in New York, wrote in a note to clients. “It certainly makes sense for China’s policy makers to buy some flexibility ahead of Fed liftoff.”

Gold capped its longest stretch of gains since May as the Chinese move spurred demand for haven assets. Bullion advanced 1.4 percent in the spot market to $1,125.23 an ounce.

Oil recovered from its lowest close in six years, while copper rebounded from a six-year low as the pull back in the dollar boosted the appeal of industrial metals and drew investors to crude.

West Texas Intermediate oil for September delivery rose 0.5 percent to $43.30 a barrel in New York. The contract slid $1.88 to $43.08 on Tuesday, its weakest settlement since March 2009. Brent crude for September settlement climbed 0.7 percent to $49.50 a barrel in London.

Corn and soybeans slumped in Chicago by the maximum daily limit after the U.S. unexpectedly raised its crop forecasts from last month’s predictions, citing better yields than previously anticipated. Cotton futures jumped the most in three years after the U.S. unexpectedly cut its outlook for domestic production.

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