US stocks cut gains in volatile trading Tuesday, hovering near record levels as rising bond yields kept sentiment in check.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was last down 90 points. The 30-share ad briefly put out a 150-point gain to fall into negative territory. The S&P 500 has been flat and has been pressured by declines in healthcare and real estate. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite fell 0.2%. All three major averages hit record highs earlier in the day.
Many on Wall Street believe that rising interest rates could make the soaring stock market less attractive, while also posing a threat to sectors like technology that have benefited from the low interest rate environment. On Tuesday, the yield on 10-year government bonds was above 1.25% for the first time since March and rose 8 basis points to a new one-year high of 1.30%.
“While higher yields are good for banks, they hit the bond replacement sectors like REITs, utilities and staples,” said Art Hogan, chief strategist at National Securities. “The market can digest rising returns, especially if they are rising for the right reason, but not if they are rising linearly.”
The benchmark yield on 10-year government bonds, used as a barometer for mortgages, student loans, and annual percentages for credit cards, hovered around 0.6% for much of 2020. Many fear that a rebound in interest rates could hamper economic recovery from the pandemic-induced disability recession as it can make it increasingly expensive for businesses and consumers to borrow. Others wonder if a flood of fiscal stimulus could trigger prices to rise after a decade of dormant inflation.
Energy was the top performing sector, up 2.2% as a deep freeze in the south sparked a rally in oil prices and West Texas Intermediate crude futures topped $ 60 a barrel for the first time in over a year.
The market has seen solid gains this month thanks to the launch of the Covid-19 vaccine, the economic reopening, and the expectation of further fiscal stimulus. The Dow gained around 5% in February, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq rose 5.8% and 7.4%, respectively. The S&P 500 achieved ten record deals in 2021.
The previous Tuesday, major averages hit new highs after a market volatility measure fell below an important threshold, paving the way for more quant fund purchases.
The Cboe Volatility Index, widely believed to be Wall Street’s top fear indicator, fell below 20 on Friday to hit 19.97. This was the first significant breach of the threshold since the pandemic-triggered sell-off began in February 2020. However, stocks fell as the VIX pushed higher again. The meter recently rose more than 1 point over 21.
The crack of level 20 is viewed by some on Wall Street as a big “risk-in” signal that could trigger buying by algorithmic traders and other big players. The meter last rose one point to 21 on Tuesday morning.
“We believe that a sustained move below 20 will be positive for risk markets,” said Tom Lee, FundStrat co-founder and head of research. “It will be a sign that the systemic fear that gripped markets in 2020 is finally easing.”
Lee, a CNBC employee, added that the easing of fear in the market is usually followed by a buy between systematic and quantitative funds. Should quantitative funds announce a retreating VIX as a positive sign, Lee believes the buy could prolong the current rally.
Elsewhere, Bitcoin briefly topped $ 50,000 for the first time on Tuesday and continued its dizzying rally as more companies warmed up in the crypto space.
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