What's moving markets today: August 21, 2019

12:53 p.m. ET, August 21, 2019

Germany is getting paid to borrow for 30 years -- and Trump does not like that

The financial world is upside down. Need further proof? Check out Germany's bizarre bond sale.

Germany sold nearly $1 billion worth of 30-year bonds at a negative yield on Wednesday. It's reportedly the first time in history that Germany has sold debt at that duration with negative yields.

During normal times, rich countries like Germany can borrow money at affordable rates, paying out several percentage points of interest to investors. But these aren't normal times.

Central banks in Europe and Japan have taken the extreme step of setting subzero interest rates. That has allowed countries like Germany to pay zero interest, or even get paid to borrow.

There is now a record $16 trillion of negative-yielding debt around the world, according to Bloomberg.

"The low level of interest rates is a global phenomenon that affects all industrial countries alike," a spokesperson for Germany's finance ministry said in a statement. The spokesperson added that Germany has used low rates "in a responsible way," such as by investing record sums in innovation.

Even countries with shaky balance sheets have been able to borrow cheaply. Look at Greece, a country on the verge of collapse earlier this decade. Greece's 10-year bond yield has collapsed from a crisis-high of 40% in 2012 to just 1.9% today -- roughly the same as America's.

Germany's historic bond sale drew the ire of President Donald Trump, who used it to continue to press the Federal Reserve to sharply lower interest rates.

10:51 a.m. ET, August 21, 2019

Here's what negative bond yields mean

Globally, trillions of dollars worth of bonds now have negative yields.

Yields fall as demand for bonds increases and prices rise. It's a sign of growing investor anxiety about where the global economy is headed.

CNN Business' Julia Chatterley explains what's driving this phenomenon.

10:06 a.m. ET, August 21, 2019

Trump calls handpicked Fed chief 'a golfer who can't putt'

Don't count on President Donald Trump and Fed chief Jerome Powell teaming up in a golf tourney any time soon.

Trump took his relentless criticism of his handpicked central banker to another level on Wednesday when he compared Powell to a "golfer who can't putt, has no touch."

Although Trump insists recession fears are overblown, he has simultaneously demanded the Federal Reserve slash interest rates AND relaunch quantitative easing -- steps normally reserved for an economic emergency.

"Big U.S. growth if he does the right thing, BIG CUT - but don't count on him!" Trump tweeted.

Trump is not the first president to criticize the Fed. But the persistent and aggressive nature of Trump's attacks, along with his refusal to rule out firing or demoting Powell, has raised concern about an erosion of the central bank's independence.

The four living former Fed chiefs -- Paul Volcker, Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen -- took the rare step of writing an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month warning politicians not to mess with the Fed.

"Even the perception that monetary-policy decisions are politically motivated, or influenced by threats that policy makers won't be able to serve out their terms of office, can undermine public confidence that the central bank is acting in the best interest of the economy," they said.

9:38 a.m. ET, August 21, 2019

Lowe's stock jumps after beating estimates

Lowe’s (LOW) stock jumped 11% in early trading after its second quarter earnings beat expectations.

The home-improvement chain's revenue clocked in at $1.7 billion, an increase of 10% compared to the same quarter a year earlier. Sales at stores open for more than a year improved to 2.3%.

CEO Marvin Ellison said in a release he's confident the company is "on the right path to capitalize on solid demand in a healthy home improvement market."

Earlier this month, Lowe's announced it was laying off thousands of workers.

9:34 a.m. ET, August 21, 2019

Stocks rebound from Tuesday's losses

US stocks rallied at the open on Wednesday, rebounding from the previous session.

All three indexes closed in the red on Tuesday. The Dow and the S&P 500 ended three-day winning streaks.

Investors are awaiting today's release of the Federal Reserve meeting minutes from July. Those are due at 2 p.m. ET.

Shares of Target (TGT) shot higher at the open, rallying more than 15% to a record high, after the company reported better-than-expected second-quarter earnings.

Lowe’s (LOW) also reported before the opening bell, beating estimates. Its stock soared 12.5%.

6:53 a.m. ET, August 21, 2019

Fiscal stimulus is back on the agenda

From our newly relaunched "Before the Bell" newsletter. Subscribe here.

Central bankers will take center stage when they gather in Jackson Hole later this week. But for now, as investors sit and wait, monetary policy isn't what's generating the most buzz.

That's right. Almost two years after US President Donald Trump and Republicans passed a $1.5 trillion tax cut package, fiscal stimulus has reentered the conversation.

"We're looking at various tax rate deductions," Trump said on Tuesday. "But I'm looking at that all the time ... that's one of the reasons we're in such a strong economic position."

His remarks followed a report that some members of the Trump administration have weighed whether to push for a temporary payroll tax cut to fight fears of an economic slowdown.

More from CNN's reporters in Washington: "Despite Trump's public-facing vociferousness about the strength of the [US] economy on his watch ... officials have discussed the possibility of a potential payroll tax cut to stave off anxiety" in recent days.

Stocks, which closed lower on Tuesday, didn't show much exuberance on the early reporting. That may reflect the fact that, at best, discussions are in extremely early stages.

6:53 a.m. ET, August 21, 2019

Target soars after strong earnings

Target (TGT) shares are on the climb after reporting better-than-expected second quarter earnings, per our Nathaniel Meyersohn:

6:26 a.m. ET, August 21, 2019

Alibaba reportedly delays its second listing in Hong Kong

Alibaba has delayed plans to list its stock in Hong Kongaccording to Reuters.

The Chinese tech company already trades publicly in New York, but was reported to have been considering a second listing that Reuters said could raise as much as $15 billion. The plan was to list in August, Reuters said.

The news organization cited two anonymous sources who attributed the decision to postpone the listing to "the lack of financial and political stability" in Hong Kong. The city has seen 11 consecutive weekends of pro-democracy protests.

Alibaba (BABA) declined to comment on what it called "market rumors" to CNN Business.

The company could still list as early as October.

Read more here.

6:32 a.m. ET, August 21, 2019

Stock markets in Asia end mixed

Asian stock markets were mostly lower earlier and taking a lead from declines overnight in the United States.

In the absence of further developments on the US-China trade war, investors appear to be shifting their focus to what Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell will have to say Friday at an economic meeting.

Here's where they ended:

  • Japan's Nikkei (N225dropped 0.3%.
  • Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index (HSIrose 0.3%.
  • South Korea's Kospi (KOSPI) was also up 0.2%.
  • China's Shanghai Composite Index (SHCOMPtraded flat.