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U.S. stock futures sold off Monday morning, tracking declines in overseas equities as investors nervously eyed the potential ripple effects of the default of a major Chinese real estate company and ongoing debates over the debt limit in Washington.
Dow futures sank by more than 500 points, or 1.6%, in early trading. S&P 500 futures also dropped by more than 1%, adding to losses from last week. The CBOE Volatility Index, or Vix (^VIX), jumped by more than 30% as a confluence of concerns roiled markets.
Shares of China Evergrande Group (3333.HK) plunged by more than 10% on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange as fears mounted that the Chinese real estate juggernaut would collapse under a major debt burden, impacting shareholders, bondholders and potentially triggering turmoil elsewhere across global markets. The specter of a broader crackdown by the Chinese government on Hong Kong’s real estate sector further added to concerns.
Meanwhile, heated debates in Washington over increasing the government’s borrowing limit built on the risk-off tone in markets. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called for Congress to raise the U.S. debt ceiling again in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, and suggested that to do otherwise would risk leaving the government to default on payments and generate “widespread economic catastrophe.” The U.S. House is set to vote this week on the debt ceiling and a stopgap spending measure to keep the government operating past the end of the fiscal year at the end of September.
Even heading into Monday’s session, the three major U.S. stock indexes had dipped so far in September amid escalating concerns over the Delta variant, pace of the economic recovery, inflation and path forward for monetary and fiscal policy. Retail sales data last week suggested the consumer was turning back towards goods rather than services spending amid the latest wave of the coronavirus, and still-weak consumer sentiment data suggested many individuals were becoming increasingly concerned about inflationary pressures.
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