Shares slide as Nasdaq tumbles, dollar edges higher

Herbert Lash and Marc Jones
·4-min read
FILE PHOTO: People are seen on Wall St. outside the NYSE in New York

By Herbert Lash and Marc Jones

NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) -World equity indexes slid and U.S. Treasury yields fell on Tuesday as low trading volume, a lull in economic news and lack of a catalyst to lift stocks higher sparked a sell-off by investors worried further upside in markets is limited.

The tech-rich Nasdaq fell 1.9%, its biggest single-day decline in almost six weeks, while the yield on 10-year Treasury notes fell to a low of 1.557%, a slide that normally would push technology shares higher on lower financing costs.

A surge in commodity prices bucked the downdraft in equity markets, helping spur talk of rising inflation, while the dollar rose after U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said interest rates may need to rise to prevent overheating the U.S. economy. Yellen later downplayed inflation and rate hike concerns.

The Refinitiv/CoreCommodity CRB Index traded near three-year highs as commodities rallied on investor bets that demand will grow as economies reopen.

Investors sold the high-flying tech-related stocks that have doubled the value of the Nasdaq since March 2020 lows, and bought government debt, pushing yields lower.

Apple Inc, Amazon.com Inc and Microsoft Corp led the decline on Nasdaq and the S&P 500.

"There's not a lot of conviction among traders of which way markets should go from here," said Patrick Leary, chief market strategist and senior trader at Incapital. "We've priced in a great amount of reopening optimism."

MSCI's benchmark for global equity markets fell 0.81% to close at 697.60.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.06%, the S&P 500 lost 0.67% and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 1.88%.

Economically sensitive value stocks eked out a gain of 0.04%, outperforming a 1.6% slide in growth stocks. After Tuesday's slide, the Russell 1000 Value Total Return Index has nearly tripled the performance of the Russell 1000 Growth Total Return Index so far this year.

European tech stocks plunged 3.8% in their worst day since late October. Germany's bourse shed 2.5%, the most in Europe, due to its high composition of tech stocks.

Chipmaker Infineon fell 5.9%, among the top drags on the German index, after the company said automotive supply constraints would only ease in the second half, with lost volumes likely to be made up in 2022.

Skepticism crept into the Treasury market that upcoming economic data might not be as stellar as the market has priced in, keeping a damper on longer-dated bonds. The benchmark 10-year Treasury note last yielded 1.587%.

In currency markets, the dollar clawed back some ground to partially unwind last month's long decline as investors squared up positions ahead of monthly payrolls data due at the end of the week. [FRX/]

The dollar index rose 0.289%, with the euro down 0.36% at $1.2018. The Japanese yen weakened 0.19% versus the greenback at 109.28 per dollar.

Signs that the world's major central banks remain in no rush to reel in their massive stimulus programs kept 10-year U.S. Treasury yields under 1.65% and Germany's Bund yields below 13-month highs. [GVD/EUR]

Australia's central bank left its key interest rates at near zero overnight for a fifth straight meeting and pledged to keep its policies super-supportive for a prolonged period.

Australia's S&P/ASX200 had risen 0.6% and Hong Kong had climbed 0.7% in thin Asian trading due to holidays in both China and Japan.

Cryptocurrency ether powered to another record peak, nearing $3,500, before paring gains to close 0.8% lower.

Oil prices rose after more U.S. states eased pandemic-related lockdowns and the European Union sought to attract travelers, though soaring COVID-19 cases in India capped gains.

Brent crude futures settled up $1.32 at $68.88 a barrel, while U.S. crude futures rose $1.20 to settle at $65.69 a barrel.

Gold fell 1% on Yellen's remarks as rising rates increase the opportunity cost of holding the non-interest bearing precious metal.

U.S. gold futures settled down 0.9% at $1,776 an ounce.

(Reporting by Marc Jones; Editing by John Stonestreet, Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)