NEW YORK: Wall Street’s main indexes fell on Monday as Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s comments sparked bets of more aggressive interest rate hikes, adding to investor concerns as the Ukraine conflict rages on.
The US central bank must move “expeditiously” to bring too-high inflation to heel, Powell said in his remarks prepared for delivery to a National Association of Business Economics conference, adding it could use bigger-than-usual interest rate hikes if needed.
Traders now see a 60.7% chance of a 50-basis point rate hike at the Fed’s May meeting, up from about 52% before Powell’s comments. The US central bank last week raised interest rates by 25 bps to 0.25%-0.50%, the first increase since late 2018.
“What I’m looking at here is just the market reacting to potential hawkish Fed but I don’t think there is anything new here so far,” said Joe Saluzzi, co-manager of trading at Themis Trading in Chatham, New Jersey.
“This is an oversold market and this quick reaction is based on the headline. Let us see if they can digest it a little bit more and see what he’s really saying.”
Big banks struggled for direction, with Bank of America up 0.3%. The US 10-year Treasury yield hit 2.28%, its highest level since late May 2019.
Technology and consumer discretionary shares fell the most after a solid rally last week. Megacap growth names Alphabet Inc, Amazon.com, Microsoft Corp and Meta Platforms were down between 0.2% and 2.5%.
Boeing’s 3.8% slide weighed the most on the blue-chip Dow after a China Eastern Airlines jet with 132 passengers crashed in the mountains of southern China.
Meanwhile, oil prices surged 6%, lifting energy shares as Brent crude climbed over $114 a barrel as European Union nations considered joining the United States in a Russian oil embargo.
Surging commodity prices have raised concerns about higher inflation pushing the Fed to raise interest rates aggressively.
At 12:48 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 235.41 points, or 0.68%, at 34,519.52, the S&P 500 was down 6.63 points, or 0.15%, at 4,456.49, and the Nasdaq Composite was down 74.43 points, or 0.54%, at 13,819.41.
Global shares started the week on a downbeat note as fighting raged in Ukraine and the Kremlin said peace talks had yet to yield any major breakthroughs.
Among individual stocks, Alleghany Corp surged 24.8% after Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc struck an $11.6-billion deal to buy the owner of reinsurer TransRe. Berkshire shares hit record high.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.19-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.48-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded 36 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 45 new highs and 30 new lows.