Stocks dipped on Friday as investors remain cautious due to a resurgent Covid virus, a Federal Reserve meeting next week and a historical tendency for September to be a weak month for equities.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost about 160 points or 0.45%, dragged down by a 3% drop in Dow Inc. The S&P 500 shed 0.7% and the Nasdaq Composite lost roughly 0.8%.
History is not on the market’s side with the S&P 500 averaging a 0.4% decline for September, the worst of any month, according to the Stock Trader’s Almanac. Friday in particular begins a historically weak period for stocks as those September losses typically come in the back half of the month.
Some of the volatility that comes during September is often surrounding so-called quadruple witching, which occurs at the close Friday. This is the expiration of stock index futures, stock index options, stock options, and single-stock futures.
“We expect volatility to increase over the next month driven by a seasonal pickup in investor uncertainty, continued virus uncertainty, and significant monetary and fiscal policy catalysts,” wrote John Marshall, head of derivatives research for Goldman Sachs, in a note Friday. Marshall cited data showing S&P 500 volatility typically increased by 27% from August to October.
Still, stocks are heading into Friday with modest gains for the week. The Dow is up 0.35% and the S&P 500 is up 0.24% since Monday. The Nasdaq Composite has gained 0.3% this week. For the month, stocks are in the red. The Dow is down 1.7% in September. The S&P 500 is off by 1.1% this month but still just 1.6% from its all-time high. The Nasdaq has lost 0.6% this month.
The Federal Reserve meets for two days next week and on Wednesday is expected to give further clues as to when it may start to slow its $120 billion in monthly bond purchases that have supported the recovery, but also perhaps aided in a jump in inflation.
The U.S. 10-year Treasury hopped 5 basis points to 1.377% on Friday.
Fed Chief Jerome Powell has said the so-called tapering could occur this year, but investors are waiting for more specifics. Some investors fear a decline in asset prices as the central bank begins to take away its easy policies.
Shares of Invesco jumped 5% after the Wall Street Journal reported the money manager is in talks to combine with State Street’s asset-management business. Invesco manages about $1.5 trillion.