Xi fails to impress; Oil drops below $49; Global market jitters

Posted December 18, 2018 4:59 a.m. EST

— 1. China jitters: Chinese President Xi Jinping struck a defiant note during a speech Tuesday marking four decades since the country embarked on its economic transformation.

But stock markets in Asia fell in reaction to the speech, which was short on economic and trade specifics.

Xi did not unveil concrete policies to tackle China's increasingly complex economic problems, which include weakening growth, rising debt and an ongoing trade war with the United States.

"President Xi's lack of any encouragement for expectations of further reform gave markets the jitters," said Kit Juckes, a strategist at Societe Generale.

One thing Xi made clear that Beijing alone will decide China's future direction.

"No one is in a position to dictate to the Chinese people what should or should not be done," he told the audience.

2. Oil plunges: US oil futures plunged to a new 15-month low on Tuesday, dropping 3.5% to below $49 per barrel.

Crude prices have been under pressure because of concerns over excess oil supplies and a weaker global economy.

US oil prices are down almost 35% so far this quarter. Brent crude, the international oil benchmark, has dropped 30% over the same period and was trading at $57.50 per barrel on Tuesday.

OPEC and allies including Russia agreed to slash oil production earlier this month despite pressure from President Donald Trump to keep pumping.

The cuts will remove 1.2 million barrels a day from world markets, but won't kick in until January.

3. Global market overview: US stock futures were slightly higher, suggesting that Wall Street may finally snap out of its funk.

European markets opened lower, following a day of negative trading in Asia.

The Dow and the S&P 500 both closed down 2.1% on Monday. The Nasdaq dropped 2.3%. The small-cap Russell 2000 tumbled into a bear market.

The Russell 2000's downfall is significant because the index is viewed as a barometer for confidence in American growth. The index contains 2,000 smaller companies that do little business overseas, making them highly exposed to swings in the domestic economy.

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4. Earnings and economics: Darden Restaurants (DRI) will release earnings before the open. FedEx (FDX) will follow after the close.

The US Census Bureau will release data on Housing Starts for November at 8:30 a.m. ET.

5. Coming this week:Tuesday — FedEx (FDX) and Darden (DRI) earningsWednesday — General Mills (GIS) earnings; Fed decision on interest ratesThursday — Nike (NKE), Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) and Blackberry (BB) earnings; Bank of England meetingFriday — Carmax (KMX) earnings; GDP third estimate.