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Stocks Tumble as Investors Fret About Fed’s Quagmire

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The surge in stocks that followed the Federal Reserve decision proved short lived, with traders worried that officials could struggle to fight persistently high inflation amid the lingering threat of a recession.

Just a day after notching the biggest rally in two years, the S&P 500 headed toward its worst session since June 2020 — with 95% of its companies moving lower.

The Nasdaq 100 was on track for one of its sharpest U-turns ever. The tech benchmark plunged more than 5%, wiping out its post-Fed gains. A selloff in long-end Treasuries pushed the 10-year yield above 3%. The dollar climbed.

Doubts policy makers can arrest runaway prices are rocking markets after Wednesday’s relief rally, with the prospect of stagflation unsettling investors. By pushing back on a jumbo-hike of 75 basis points in June, Fed Chair Jerome Powell beat back traders’ most-aggressive predictions for interest rates.

However, he may also have set the stage for more turbulence. It’s still a bumpy road ahead, with pivotal economic data and global developments due within days that could seed doubts about the central bank’s approach.

Comments:

  • “I expected some selloff, but the great puking that’s happening, I didn’t expect,” said Kim Forrest, founder and chief investment officer at Bokeh Capital Partners. “Is this capitulation? I remember what capitulation feels like — this kind of feels like capitulation, when everything, even the good names, are getting barfed out.”
  • “It’s going to be incredibly difficult for the Fed to normalize interest rates without having a negative impact on growth and earnings,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Investment Management. “So stock prices are too high if we’re going to see a flattening or a decline in earnings per share.”
  • “Make no mistake, the Fed is in the early stages of what we believe will be a very aggressive tightening cycle,” wrote Win Thin, global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman.

The swing higher in longer-dated yields certainly matters for the broader economic picture as they influence borrowing costs.

Mortgage rates in the U.S. resumed their upward jump, reaching the highest level since August 2009. Separate data Thursday showed that productivity dropped in the first quarter by the most since 1947 as the economy shrank, while labor costs surged and illustrated an extremely tight job market.

Corporate Highlights:

  • Shares of e-commerce companies from Etsy Inc. to Shopify Inc. tumbled after weaker-than-expected quarterly earnings and forecasts deepened concern that the pace of online shopping has slowed.
  • EBay Inc. gave a lackluster sales and profit outlook for the current quarter, accelerating its decline from the peaks reached when shoppers were stuck at home during the pandemic.
  • Elon Musk has secured about $7.1 billion of new financing commitments, including from billionaire Larry Ellison, a Saudi Prince, and Sequoia Capital, to help fund his proposed $44 billion takeover of Twitter Inc.

Elsewhere, the pound slumped as investors looked past the Bank of England’s rate increase and turned their focus on forecasts for a recession in 2023. BOE Governor Andrew Bailey said the U.K. economy is already slowing because of a squeeze on consumer spending power, and that will help reduce inflation next year.

Some of the main moves in markets:

Stocks

  • The S&P 500 fell 3.9% as of 2:44 p.m. New York time
  • The Nasdaq 100 fell 5.4%
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 3.6%
  • The MSCI World index fell 2.9%

Currencies

  • The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index rose 1.2%
  • The euro fell 1.1% to $1.0510
  • The British pound fell 2.3% to $1.2340
  • The Japanese yen fell 1.1% to 130.46 per dollar

Bonds

  • The yield on 10-year Treasuries advanced 14 basis points to 3.07%
  • Germany’s 10-year yield advanced seven basis points to 1.04%
  • Britain’s 10-year yield was little changed at 1.96%

Commodities

  • West Texas Intermediate crude rose 0.4% to $108.20 a barrel
  • Gold futures rose 0.3% to $1,875.10 an ounce

(Image: Adobe Stock) 

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