ISSN: 2056-3736 (Online Version) | 2056-3728 (Print Version)


The market steadied, with major indexes notching gains for the week in a deceptively calm end to one of the most volatile trading periods in years.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 11.76 points, or 0.1%, to 16643.01. The S&P 500 added 1.21 point, or 0.1%, to 1988.87 and the Nasdaq Composite rose 15.62 points, or 0.3%, to 4828.32.

Stocks, currencies and commodities have seesawed this week as investors grappled with what could be a worse-than-expected slowdown in China, the world’s second-largest economy. Those fears were reignited earlier this month when China unexpectedly devalued its currency, a move that signaled the government’s concern about growth, and kicked into higher gear as economic data continued to show lackluster Chinese growth.

Uncertainty about whether the Federal Reserve will be able to raise interest rates this year also added to the outsize moves across markets.

“There’s probably more of a fragility to both the market and the global economy than we thought” earlier, said John Linehan, portfolio manager of U.S. large-cap value strategies at T. Rowe Price. “China is a huge unknown right now,” he added.

The Dow industrials plunged at the start of the week, briefly tumbling by more than 1,000 points on Monday. The blue-chip index rebounded on Wednesday and Thursday, notching its largest two-day point gain ever, as investors began to focus on the relative strength of the U.S. economy and snapped up stocks that had become cheaper amid the broad rout.

Many traders and investors are bracing for more swings. The CBOE Volatility Index slipped 0.2% to 26.05 on Friday, but remained above its 10-year average of about 20 for the sixth session in a row. The VIX is based on S&P 500 options that investors tend to rush to when they’re fearful of a pullback.

“You’ve got carnage in emerging markets and their currencies, and in commodities,” said Steve Sosnick, an options trader at Timber Hill, the market-making division of Interactive Brokers. “I find it a little too neat that we had our couple of bad days and it’s back to business as usual…and the VIX is telling you that,” he added.

The pan-European Stoxx Europe 600 index rose 0.3% on Friday, on the heels of gains in some Asian markets.

Stocks in the U.S. and Europe ended the week with gains. The Dow industrials rose 1.1% and the S&P added 0.9%. The Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.6% for the week

The Shanghai Composite, meanwhile, lost 7.9% for the week.

Remarks from central bankers at a conference in Jackson Hole, Wyo. also attracted attention. Stanley Fischer, the Fed’s No. 2 official, said the central bank hasn’t yet settled on whether to raise rates next month.

“There is still a small likelihood of a Fed move in September–they want to keep their options open,” said Jack Kelly, head of global government bond funds at Standard Life Investments, which oversees GBP250 billion in assets.

Upbeat economic data in the U.S. this week has helped reassure some investors that while global growth is slowing, the U.S. remains relatively stable. The Commerce Department said Friday U.S. consumer spending increased 0.3% in July. The figures followed a strong reading of U.S. gross domestic product Thursday, which showed an expansion of 3.7% in the second quarter, up from an initial estimate of 2.3% growth.

“The current data that’s coming in suggests that the economy is in good shape,” said Hank Smith, chief investment officer at Haverford Trust, which manages $6.5 billion. That gives him confidence that the bull run in stocks isn’t yet over, and he is encouraging clients who have portfolios of stocks and bonds to allocate more money to stocks, he said.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was at 2.188%, compared with 2.168% on Thursday. Yields rise as prices fall.

In commodity markets, crude-oil futures surged 6.2% to $45.22 a barrel, boosting shares of energy companies. Chevron Corp. rose the most in the Dow industrials, up 3.6%.

Gold futures added nearly 1% to $1133.10 an ounce.