Dow drops 400 points, extending losses in its worst week since January

Dow drops 400 points, extending losses in its worst week since January

U.S. stocks fell on Friday with the Dow Jones Industrial Average on pace to post its worst week since January, after St. Louis Federal Reserve President Jim Bullard told CNBC the first rate hike could come as soon as next year. Economic comeback plays led the market sell-off.

The blue-chip average dropped 402 points, bringing its week-to-date losses to 3.1%. The S&P 500 fell 1%, pushing its loss this week to more than 1.5%. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite dipped 0.9%.

Bullard said on CNBC that it was natural for the Fed to tilt a little “hawkish” this week and that the first rate increase from the central bank would likely come in 2022.

The market’s slide this week began after the Federal Reserve on Wednesday afternoon added two rate hikes to its 2023 forecast and increased its inflation projection for the year.

Pockets of the market most sensitive to the economic rebound led the sell-off this week. The S&P 500 energy sector and industrials have both fallen more than 3% week to date, while financials and materials have dropped over 5%. These groups had been market leaders this year on the back of the economic reopening.

The decline in stocks came as the Fed’s actions caused a drastic flattening of the so-called Treasury yield curve. This means the yields of shorter-duration Treasurys, like the 2-year note, rose. Meanwhile, longer duration yields — such as the benchmark 10-year — were under pressure. The retreat in long-dated bonds reflects less optimism toward economic growth, while the jump in short-end yields shows the expectations of the Fed raising rates.

This phenomenon is hurting bank stocks particularly as bank earnings could take a hit when the spread between short-term and long-term rates narrows. Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase shares on Friday lost 2.1% and 1.9%, respectively.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday that officials have discussed tapering bond buying and would at some point begin slowing the asset purchases.

“Investors may be interpreting the Fed’s hawkish tilt Wednesday as a sign that an extended US post-pandemic economic expansion may be a bit harder to achieve in a potentially emerging environment of less accommodative monetary policy,” said Goldman Sachs’ Chris Hussey in a note.

Most commodities prices rebounded a bit on Friday following sharp declines this week as China attempts to cool rising prices and the U.S. dollar strengthens. Futures prices for copper, gold, and platinum rebounded Friday, but were still down big for the week.

Friday also coincides with the quarterly “quadruple witching” in which options and futures on indexes and equities expire. Many expect trading to be more volatile in light of this event.

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