US stocks lower as fears of future rate hikes persist


US stock indexes slipped on weakness in megcap and energy stocks as investors worried that stubborn inflation and signs of strength in the US economy could put the Federal Reserve on pace for more interest rate hikes this year.

Wall Street indexes turned volatile this week following a strong start to 2023 as economic data pointed to elevated inflation, a tight job market and resilience in consumer spending, giving the Fed more room for to raise borrowing costs.

Goldman Sachs and Bank of America forecast three more times rate hikes this year and by a quarter of a percentage point each, up from their previous estimate of two rate rises. Traders are expecting at least two more rate increases and see the Fed rate peaking at 5.3 per cent by July.

“We’ve seen the rates market catch up to the Fed commentary, and the really robust data in the US was the catalyst for equities to pay attention,” said Laura Cooper, senior macro strategist at BlackRock on Friday.

“We’re reaching an inflection point where further rate hikes being priced in will be a negative for equity markets because the data suggests that inflation risks are tilted to the upside.”

Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors were lower, with energy stocks sliding 3.0 per cent as oil prices tumbled 3 per cent.

Megacap growth names like Microsoft Corp, Apple Inc and Amazon.com Inc lost more than 1 per cent each, weighing on the technology and consumer discretionary sectors.

Meanwhile, Fed Governor Michelle Bowman said interest rates will have to rise until there was more progress on bringing high inflation back towards the 2 per cent goal, adding to a string of recent hawkish comments from policymakers.

The CBOE Volatility index, also known as Wall Street’s fear gauge, traded above 20 points for a second session in a row.

At 10:44 am local time on Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 24.96 points, or 0.07 per cent, at 33,671.89, the S&P 500 was down 28.80 points, or 0.70 per cent, at 4,061.61, and the Nasdaq Composite was down 116.57 points, or 0.98 per cent, at 11,739.27.

Sectors considered less risky during times of economic uncertainty such as healthcare, consumer staple and utilities gained.

Moderna Inc fell 4.7 per cent after its experimental messenger RNA-based influenza vaccine delivered mixed results in a study.

Deere & Co jumped 6.4 per cent after the world’s largest farm equipment maker raised its annual profit and beat quarterly earnings expectations.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.85-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and 1.37-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq

The S&P index recorded five new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 44 new highs and 39 new lows.



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