By Chloe Aiello
Hopes of a Santa Claus Rally were dashed on Monday, as markets accelerated their declines on Christmas Eve in the wake of one of the Trump administration’s most tumultuous weeks yet.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 650 points on Monday, putting markets on pace for their worst December since the Great Depression.
The tech-heavy Cheddar 50 Index, which measures the performance of Cheddar's 50 top companies ー from Apple ($AAPL) to GM ($GM) ー was down about 1 percent in intraday trading. Snap ($SNAP), Dropbox ($DBX) and Lululemon ($LULU) were the top performers, while Nike ($NKE), Ford ($F), and Tesla ($TSLA) dragged the index.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 650 points on Monday, falling more than 2.9 percent. The S&P 500 fell an additional 2.7 percent, slipping into a bear market. The Nasdaq, already in bear territory, slid 2.2 percent.
In an effort to prevent the market meltdown that started last week, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on Sunday tweeted that he spoke with the heads of six major banks and reported they had “ample liquidity." The move was likely intended to soothe investors, but may have had the opposite effect by raising new questions about the health of the big banks.
“His last comment certainly publicizing that he spoke to the banks ー it sends the wrong message to the public, it sends the wrong message to investors. Certainly I think he is part of the problem now,” Shah Gilani, Capital Wave Strategist at Money Morning, told Cheddar on Monday.
Even major retailers, which typically outperform during the holiday quarter, dropped lower on Monday. Target ($TGT) was down about 13 percent since November, Walmart about 12 percent, and Macy's ($M) about 17.7 percent on the month. L Brands ($LB), parent company to the struggling Victoria’s Secret brand, was down about 25.6 percent since Nov. 30. JC Penney, which has struggled due to pressure from Amazon and changes in the e-commerce space, was down 28.7 percent month-to-date.
“These are major Christmas-type retailers. You would think they would have some sort of bump from the holiday season ー that’s not happening,” Hitha Herzog, chief research officer of H Squared Research, told Cheddar Monday.
The tumble followed a healthy Super Saturday, otherwise known as "Panic Saturday," when shoppers scramble to cross last-minute items off their Christmas shopping lists. The National Retail Federation estimated 134 million people ー or approximately 41 percent of the U.S. population ー hit the stores on Saturday.
Overall, the consumer outlook is rosy. The National Retail Federation expects sales to be up 4.3 to 4.8 percent ー compared with an average annual increase of about 3.9 percent over the last five years. However, bix-box retailers, apart from those that have adapted to e-commerce, like Target and Walmart, are still hurting due to competition from Amazon.
And Herzog said retailers are also at the mercy of market forces ー and this market is the worst performing since 2008.
Markets tumbled last week, following a widely anticipated rate hike from the Federal Reserve. The central bank also projected it would raise interest rates an additional two times in 2019.
President Trump has been a vocal critic of the Fed’s monetary policy and Powell, personally. He continued his tirade on Monday.
“The only problem our economy has is the Fed. They don’t have a feel for the Market, they don’t understand necessary Trade Wars or Strong Dollars or even Democrat Shutdowns over Borders. The Fed is like a powerful golfer who can’t score because he has no touch ー he can’t putt,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Gilani told Cheddar that Trump's scrutiny of the Fed has likely contributed to market upset over the last raise hike. Typically the markets would have digested such a widely-anticipated hike more easily.
"I think a lot of the volatility is being caused by the administration ... there is a lot of uncertainty and every time the president tweets there seems to be more uncertainty," Gilani said.
Fears of an extended government shutdown also added to that uncertainty on Monday. Trump forced a partial government shutdown over demands for $5 billion to fund a wall on the Mexican border. Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said it was "very possible" that the shutdown could continue into the new year.
Also last week, Trump announced the withdrawal of all troops from Syria, prompting the sudden resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis ー who has long been viewed as a stabilizing influence on the president.
Traders have a shortened day on Monday for Christmas Eve, and markets will close early on Tuesday for the Christmas holiday.
For full interview click here.