Calm returns to Wall Street, but Europe remains a worry
For a day at least, Wall Street was able to work through its worries about the world economy.
After Wednesday’s mayhem, stock markets around the world mostly stabilized Thursday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 benchmark of U.S. stocks recovered from an early slump to close ever so slightly higher, at 1,862.76. The Nasdaq composite index rose 2.97 points, or 0.05 percent, to 4,217.39, while the Dow Jones industrial average fell 24.50 points, or 0.15 percent, to 15,117.24.
Most European markets, which were hit particularly hard Wednesday, fell again, but ended up off their lows.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury climbed after dipping below the psychologically important 2 percent mark for the second consecutive day.
In recent years, investors have piled into Treasurys during times of stress, so the small increase in the yield, to 2.15 percent, from 2.13 percent late Wednesday, was a sign that investors had shed some of their nerves. The price on the 10-year Treasury note fell 7/32, to 101 31/32.
As some calm settled on Wall Street, some executives wondered whether fears about the global economy — which prompted some of the frantic selling in recent days — might be overdone.
“In speaking with our economists only yesterday,” Harvey M. Schwartz, chief financial officer of Goldman Sachs, said on a conference call Thursday, “they would argue that nothing has fundamentally changed in the past two weeks, or certainly the last 24 hours, regarding the long-term outlook for the global economy.”
But it is not clear that the world’s biggest economies have enough momentum to please markets.
The exception might be the U.S. economy. After a handful of uninspiring economic releases Wednesday, two strong ones came out Thursday, including a low number for people claiming unemployment benefits. In addition, James Bullard, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, suggested that the Federal Reserve could consider delaying the end of its bond-buying stimulus program.
On Thursday, the European Union said that inflation in the 18 countries using the euro had fallen to 0.3 percent in September, its lowest level in five years. Spain, Italy and Greece actually had deflation. Falling prices are considered troubling because they can feed on themselves and deepen an economic malaise.
“Europe faces the risk of a prolonged period of substantially below-target inflation or outright deflation,” the U.S. Treasury Department warned Thursday in a semiannual report to Congress.