China share plunge smacks world markets; S&P, Nasdaq in correction

By Sinead Carew
An investor stands in front of an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Shanghai, China, August 24, 2015. REUTERS/Aly Song

By Sinead Carew

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A near-9 percent dive in China shares sent world stocks and commodity prices tumbling on Monday, and U.S. stocks ended a volatile day with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq composite indexes sliding into correction territory.

After dropping more than 1,000 points, or almost 7 percent, at Wall Street's open, the Dow Jones industrial average cut its losses but still finished down 3.6 percent. The Standard & Poor's 500 index closed down 3.9 percent for the day and was 11 percent lower than its May record high.

The benchmark S&P index has accumulated 9.95 percent of losses in just five sessions.

A key measure of U.S. equity volatility, the CBOE Volatility Index, or VIX, shot above the 50 mark for the first time since 2009, dropped back near 30 and then rose to 40.

Some U.S. investors went bargain hunting after the dip, causing at least some of the accelerated selling toward the day's end, according to Randy Frederick, managing director of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin, Texas.

"It's a very risky proposition to take things home overnight in this kind of a market. If you got a profit that quick, it's often safer to take a small profit than run the risk," said Frederick, "If things don't settle down in China we could have another ugly open tomorrow."

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index futures were down 2 percent and Nikkei futures were down 6 percent, suggesting there may be more losses in store when trading resumes in Asia on Tuesday.

European stocks closed off 5.4 percent after Asian shares slumped to three-year lows when a three-month-long rout in Chinese equities threatened to get out of hand.

U.S. markets had some reprieve after Europe closed but then pushed back down toward early lows in late afternoon.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 588.40 points, or 3.57 percent, at 15,871.35. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 77.68 points, or 3.94 percent, at 1,893.21. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 179.79 points, or 3.82 percent, at 4,526.25.

U.S. traders had rushed for the exits in Monday's first half-hour of trading when deepening concerns about a China-led global economic slowdown and tumbling commodities prices followed a 5 percent decline in the S&P and Dow on Thursday and Friday.

"Anybody with a pulse was nervous when the market opened," said Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.

Monday's trading volume exceeded 14 billion shares, double the 7 billion daily average for the month to date, calculated by BATS Global Markets. In comparison, about 10.6 billion shares changed hands in Friday's selloff.

Oil prices settled sharply down after plunging to six-and-a-half year lows. Safe-haven U.S. government and German bonds, as well as the yen and the euro, rallied as currency concerns kicked in due to China's recent currency devaluation.

U.S. crude settled down 5.5 percent at $38.24 a barrel after falling as low as $37.75 earlier. Brent settled off 6 percent at $42.69 after falling as low as $42.51, taking both under January's lows for the first time. Worries about weaker demand from normally resource-hungry China added to global supply glut concerns.

The S&P's energy sector was the weakest performer, with a 5.2 percent decline for the day.

Copper, seen as a barometer of global industrial demand, hit a six-year low, and nickel fell sharply.


The slump in Chinese stocks was their worst performance since the depths of the global financial crisis in 2007 and wiped out what was left of 2015's gains, which in June stood at more than 50 percent.

Many traders had hoped Beijing would take support measures, such as an interest rate cut, over the weekend after China's main stock markets slumped 11 percent last week.

With serious doubts emerging about the likelihood of a U.S. interest rate rise this year, the dollar was down 1.6 percent against other major currencies after falling as much as 2.5 percent earlier in the day.

The Australian dollar fell to more than six-year lows and many emerging market currencies also plunged, while the frantic dash to safety pushed the euro to a seven-and-a-half month high of more than $1.17.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 5.4 percent to a more than three-year low. Tokyo's Nikkei ended down 4.6 percent and Australian and Indonesian shares hit two-year troughs.

London's FTSE 100, with its large number of global miners and oil firms, ended down 4.7 percent for its 10th straight decline - its worst run since 2003.

The MSCI all world stock index was off 3.8 percent at the end of the U.S. session.

(Additional reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak, Caroline Valetkevitch and Rodrigo Campos in New York; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Dan Grebler)