Picture: SUNDAY TIMES.
Picture: SUNDAY TIMES.

US stocks tumbled to a 19-month low on Monday as the turmoil in Washington kept investors on edge after the worst week for American equities in almost a decade.

The S&P 500 slid for a fourth straight day, edging ever closer to a bear market as treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin unnerved investors by calling a crisis meeting with financial regulators. The move looked to undermine his attempt to assure financial markets that the president won’t move to oust the head of the Federal Reserve. Traders also assessed the threat to the economy from a government shutdown that looks set to persist into the new year.

Mnuchin’s steps to placate markets came after the worst week for American equities in nearly a decade amid a surge in trading volume. The S& P 500 is down 17% from its record and on track for the steepest quarterly drop since the financial crisis. US stock markets close at 1pm on Monday in New York, ahead of the Christmas holiday, while Treasury trading ends at 2pm.

“The reality is, in Washington you have this massive amount of unpredictability,” Chad Morganlander, portfolio manager at Washington Crossing Advisors, said on Bloomberg TV. That combines with concerns over global growth and removal of stimulus “gives investors this level of chill where they’re going to compress multiples regardless of what the backdrop in 2020 will be,” he said.

Elsewhere, many emerging market currencies and shares fell even as China’s top policy makers said they’ll roll out more monetary and fiscal support in 2019, ratcheting up the targeted stimulus of 2018. Oil dropped even as some Opec members pledged to deepen output cuts. The euro advanced against the dollar.

Bloomberg