Stocks plunge, dragging Wall Street towards another down week

Wall Street is careening towards another day of losses Friday as the Federal Reserve’s latest interest-rate hike renews fears of a recession.

The S&P 500 sank 88 points, or 2.4%, to 3,670 as of 2:20 pm Eastern time on Friday, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 747 points, or 2.5%. The Nasdaq plummeted 2.7% — its biggest single-day drop since June 28. Barring a wild swing, major US indices are poised to finish the week with losses for the fourth time in five weeks.

“Markets here and abroad are being whipsawed by tough-talking central bankers as they continue assertive monetary policy to bring inflation under control,” Quincy Krosby, chief global strategist for LPL Financial, said in an email.

Oil prices fell 3%, threatening to fall below $80 per barrel for the first time since early January.

Federal Reserve hikes key interest rate again


Global recession fears

Central banks in Britain, Switzerland, Turkey and the Philippines all raised interest rates after the Fed hiked its key rate on Wednesday for a fifth time this year and indicated more increases were on the way.

“Global equities are struggling as the world anticipates surging rates will trigger a much sooner and possibly severe global recession,” Edward Moya of Oanda said in a report.

Investors worry central banks might be willing to tolerate a painful economic slump to get prices under control.

Some point to signs the US economy is cooling as support for the Fed to back off plans for more rate hikes. But Chair Jerome Powell said Wednesday rates will be kept elevated for an extended time if needed to get inflation back to its 2% target.

US consumer inflation eased to 8.3% in August from the previous month’s 9.1% peak, although prices remain near a four-decade high as costs for items such as food and rent continue to climb. Core inflation, which strips out volatile food and energy prices to give a clearer picture of the trend, rose to 0.6% over the previous month, up from July’s 0.3% increase. That indicated pressure for prices to rise was still strong.

Inflation remains high even as gas prices drop


“Price levels continue to increase — they aren’t slowing down month-over month (eg accelerating, not decelerating) and this inflation problem isn’t going away quietly,” Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer at the Independent Advisor Alliance, said in a note last week.

The Fed on Wednesday lifted its benchmark ratewhich affects many consumer and business loans, to a range of 3% to 3.25%. It released a forecast showing that it expects the benchmark rate to be 4.4% by the end of the year, a full point higher than envisioned in June.

Despite the economic impact of ratcheting up rates, Fed Chair Jerome Powell sounded a hawkish note in affirming his commitment to lowering inflation.

“Reducing inflation will likely require a sustained period of below-trend growth, and it will very likely require a softening of labor conditions,” he said at a press conference Wednesday.

“We will keep at it until we are confident the job is done,” Powell added.

In energy markets, benchmark US crude lost $2.75 to $80.74 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.


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