On August 2, 2023, Wall Street traders witnessed a decline in stocks and a rise in Treasury yields following Fitch’s decision to downgrade the United States’ sovereign credit rating from AAA to AA+. The downgrade was attributed to fiscal deterioration, but economists remained confident in the U.S.’ ability to meet debt payments. Despite the downgrade, the market reaction was not one of panic, with investors showing resilience.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 1%, the S&P 500 fell 1.38%, and the Nasdaq Composite saw a decline of 2.17%. The impact was not confined to the U.S., as Europe’s STOXX 600 index fell 1.35%, and Asia-Pacific stocks dropped around 2% amid signs of weakness in China’s economy.
Long-term U.S. Treasury yields rose due to strong private employment data and the U.S. government’s refunding of maturing debt. U.S. 10-year yields increased by 2.4 basis points to 4.074%.
Surprisingly, the U.S. dollar gained strength despite the downgrade, supported by positive private payrolls data, signaling a resilient labor market. The U.S. dollar index rose by 0.6%. Credit default swaps, insuring exposure to U.S. Treasuries, saw minimal movement, and the CBOE Market Volatility Index remained near its 12-month lows.
The downgrade heightened attention to the U.S. economy’s debt metrics, causing investors to reevaluate their positions. Disappointing economic data in the U.S. and China, coupled with weaker-than-expected earnings, led some investors to withdraw from the market.
Japan’s 10-year bond yield reached a nine-year peak as investors tested the Bank of Japan’s tolerance for higher yields following a policy tweak. Despite this, the yen remained relatively stable against the dollar after three days of losses.
Monetary policy decisions, notably the Bank of England’s rate increase consideration, also garnered attention. There was uncertainty surrounding the outcome, with investors betting on a 60% chance of a 25 basis-point move after a previous 50 basis-point increase in June.
Economic data, particularly U.S. jobs market data, was closely watched by investors. Oil prices fell despite a historic drop in U.S. crude stocks, as traders de-risked after the Fitch downgrade. U.S. crude declined 1.9% to $79.82 per barrel, and Brent was down 1.64% at $83.52.
Gold prices faced losses due to a stronger dollar and rebounding bond yields. Market participants were digesting the downgrade and focusing on U.S. nonfarm payrolls data scheduled later in the week. Spot gold dropped 0.5% to $1,934 per ounce.
In summary, Fitch‘s downgrade of the U.S. sovereign credit rating had notable impacts on the stock market and global economic factors. While experts downplayed its immediate effect on U.S. Treasuries, investors remained attentive to key economic indicators and other monetary policy decisions around the world. Oil and gold prices were also influenced by market factors following the downgrade.