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U.S. stocks closed lower by about 1 percent on Tuesday after an unexpected move overnight by the People's Bank of China to depreciate the yuan by nearly 2 percent. (Tweet This)
"The major concern is, the prospect of a China hard landing is more ominous as far as its impact on global growth," said Eric Wiegand, senior portfolio manager at U.S. Bank's Private Client Reserve.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed about 210 points lower, wiping out most of Monday's gains. The index's 50-day moving average fell below its 200-day moving average, a bearish condition many analysts term a "death cross. "
On Monday, the same two stocks led the blue chip index higher to snap its first seven-day losing streak in four years with a 241-point rise.
"Yesterday's rally was a relatively poor rally, just a bounceback in oversold (stocks), not new leadership," said Bruce McCain, chief investment strategist at Key Private Bank.
Biotech stocks and Apple outweighed Google's 4 percent jump to pressure the Nasdaq Composite off 1.2 percent.
Renewed concerns about a deeper slowdown in the world's second-largest economy increased negative sentiment.
It's the "interpretation that the U.S. dollar is going to further strengthen against the Chinese yuan and be a further headwind against U.S. multinationals," said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott.
"I'm a little surprised (China) did this because they had plenty of room to cut interest rates," Luschini said.
The drop in the daily peg to 6.2298 renminbi against the U.S. dollar, down from 6.1162 on Monday, was the largest one-day move in more than two decades and took the currency back to levels from three years ago. The central bank described the decision as a "one-off depreciation."
"I think the market's perception is if China is doing that they're really worried about their economy," said Jason Leinwand, managing director at Riverside Risk Advisors. "Any currencies that have direct ties with China will be weakened."
The U.S. dollar index traded mildly higher, while the euro held above $1.10 on a bailout deal between Greece and its creditors. The yen was weaker against the dollar, near 125 yen.
European stocks closed sharply lower, with the German DAX off more than 2.5 percent, on the yuan move. Asian stocks ended mostly lower, with the Shanghai Composite flat.
"This news is negative for exporters (such as automakers) and luxury goods makers as well as other companies that derive foreign exchange revenue from China and other parts of Asia," said Ilya Feygin, senior strategist at WallachBeth Capital.
He noted that the currency instability benefits Treasurys and gold.
Treasury yields fell as traders piled into dollar-denominated assets, with the 10-year yield briefly hitting its lowest level since June 1 before trading near 2.14 percent and the at 0.67 percent.
The Treasury Department auctioned $24 billion of 3-year notes at a high yield of 1.013 percent at 1:00 p.m. ET.
Gold rallied on Monday to its highest level since the end of June. Gold futures held near $1,110 an ounce in afternoon trade.
Investors also watched Google, which unexpectedly announced after the close Monday that it will become part of a new publicly traded entity called Alphabet. Shares will still trade under the tickers GOOGL and GOOG. Class A shares closed up 4.1 percent.
Oil extended a recent decline. Brent crude dipped below $49 a barrel, while U.S. crude hit a five-month intraday low of $42.69.
Crude oil futures settled down $1.88, or 4.18 percent, at $43.08 a barrel, a six-year low. Gold futures ended up $3.60 at $1,107.70 an ounce.
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On Monday, dollar weakness and a refinery outage helped crude rally nearly 2.5 percent from a near five-month low earlier in the session.
On the data front, preliminary second quarter productivity was up at an annual rate of 1.3 percent, while unit labor costs were up 0.5 percent.
rose 0.1 percent in June, the weakest since March of this year, while inventories topped expectations with a gain of 0.9 percent. May's figure was revised lower to 0.6 percent from 0.8 percent.
"I think once investors get past the yuan devaluation we can focus on the (U.S.) economic picture, which remains good," Luschini said.
Most analysts expect the Federal Reserve will find enough support from economic data to raise rates as early as September.
"The overnight devaluation of the Chinese yuan will likely be seen by Fed officials as a minor headwind to growth, but is not significant enough to change our base view of September liftoff," J.P. Morgan said in a note. "The yuan has a 21.3 percent weight in the Fed's broad dollar index, and so simply taking the 0.4 percent dollar change implied by the PBoC action at face value would imply perhaps a few hundredths off growth over the next one to two years (using a rough rule of thumb that 10 percent in the broad dollar subtracts about 1 percent off the level of GDP over time)."
Before the opening bell, Towers Watson posted quarterly results that beat expectations on both the top and bottom line.
In other earnings news, Shake Shack posted results after the close Monday that beat on both the top and bottom line. The restaurant chain also raised its full-year guidance. The stock closed nearly 3 percent lower after an initial spike.
Kraft Heinz closed 1 percent lower after reporting a decline in sales at both its Kraft and Heinz divisions. Combined results for the recently merged firm were not reported.
The closed down 20.11 points, or 0.96 percent, at 2,084.07, with materials falling nearly 2 percent to lead eight sectors lower and telecommunications and utilities the only gainers.
The Nasdaq closed down 65.01 points, or 1.27 percent, at 5,036.79.
The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, traded just below 14.
About two stocks declined for every advancer on the New York Stock Exchange, with an exchange volume of 825 million and a composite volume of 3.6 billion in the close.
On tap this week:
Earnings: Cree, Computer Sciences, Symantec, Towers Watson, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Cyber Ark Software, JA Solar, Silver Wheaton
Earnings: Cisco, Macy's, News Corp., Alibaba, NetEase, Markit, Wayfair
8:30 a.m.: New York Fed President William Dudley
10 a.m.: JOLTs
1 p.m.: $24 billion 10-year auction
2 p.m.: Federal budget
Earnings: Nestle, Kohl's, Nordstrom, Applied Materials, Flowers Foods, El Pollo Loco, King Digital, Party City
8:30 a.m.: Initial claims, retail sales, import prices
10 a.m.: Business inventories
1 p.m.: $16 billion 30-year auction
8:30 a.m.: PPI
9:15 a.m.: Industrial production
10 a.m.: Consumer sentiment
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