American equities had a pretty uneventful start to the last week of August as volume levels were quite low across the board. The Dow finished the session lower by 33 points, while the S&P 500 slumped by a point, and the Nasdaq added three points largely thanks to Apple and the firm’s patent win against Samsung.
In terms of sector performances, industries were mixed as Apple led the way for an otherwise weak tech sector, while banks and oil also slumped. Utilities and health care were stronger performers, while staples largely finished in the green during Monday trading as well (also read Will There Be a WTO Boost for Russia ETFs?).
The U.S. dollar also finished the day relatively flat, as the only action was against the Aussie dollar, as that currency lost about half a percent against the greenback. Meanwhile in the Treasury market, American and British bonds saw yields fall, as the ten year American note reached a level of 1.65% while the British counterpart fell to just 1.53% in today’s session.
Commodity markets were slightly more interesting on the day, as speculation over hurricane Isaac and its path could play a role in several commodities and their near term outlook. Thanks to this, gasoline futures added about 2.7%, while natural gas and WTI crude both trended lower. Meanwhile, soft commodities saw some shaky trading as well, with coffee and cocoa rising as orange juice fell more than 3.5% as the storm missed many key growing regions in Florida (see Forget Brazil, the Mexico ETF is Hot).
Much like in the equity world, ETF trading volume was pretty sparse across the board. Key broad market funds in the equity space saw volume that was about half the normal level, while a similar trend was seen in the emerging market, U.S. small cap, and precious metal ETF segments.
However, investors did still see some outsized interest in a few products including the CurrencyShares Australian Dollar Trust (FXA - ETF report) . This popular fund usually does about a quarter million shares in volume but saw about 600,000 shares move hands today, representing a huge increase on an otherwise uneventful day.
Investors should note that the product lost about 0.4% on the day, continuing the bearish short-term trend for the fund and the Australian currency at large. Many are growing increasingly worried over the health of the Chinese economy, as well as an Aussie property bubble (see Developed Asia Pacific ETF Investing 101).
Thanks to these two issues, many investors are shying away from Australia, deciding to put their capital into other Asia-Pacific markets that aren’t quite so dependent on China or on basic material exports to the nation.
Another fund which saw a great deal of trading activity was the United States Gasoline ETF (UGA - ETF report) . This product usually does about 33,000 shares in volume on a normal day but saw about 80,000 shares move hands to open up the week.
This huge increase in volume came as the product added more than 2% on the day, continuing the impressive run for this commodity ETF since early July. Today, however, the focus of the gasoline market was undoubtedly on Isaac and its path in the Gulf (read Why the Gasoline ETF is a Top Performer).
Many are forecasting that a good chunk of gasoline production and infrastructure could be taken off line, suggesting that there could be a short-term supply crunch for the key fuel. Given what happened last time a hurricane struck New Orleans, investors are probably being quite cautious about UGA this time around, suggesting we could see some more small gains this week as the storm hits the Gulf coast.
(see more in the Zacks ETF Center)