Stocks fell on Thursday, giving back their gains from the last two days, after better-than-expected data on the economy fueled worries on Wall Street that the Federal Reserve may need to boost interest rates higher.
Usually, good news on the economy would be good for markets, particularly when anxieties about a potential recession are high. But the reports showing employers laid off fewer workers than expected last week — and that the economy grew more during the third quarter than expected — suggested the Federal Reserve may indeed need to crank rates higher and hold them there for longer to kill off inflation.
The S&P 500 fell 56 points, or 1.4%, to close at 3,823, slipping back into the red for the week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 348 points, or 1%, to 32,028 and the Nasdaq was down 2.2%.
Technology companies had some of the biggest losses. Chipmaker Micron Technology fell 4.1% after giving investors a weak financial forecast as it faces a drop in demand. The tech sector has also been among the hardest hit from higher interest rates, which make already high-priced tech stocks seem too expensive.
Used car seller CarMax sank 8.1% after reporting results for its latest quarter that came in far below what analysts were expecting. Car dealers are among the many retailers feeling the squeeze from inflation and consumers shifting spending to cope with high prices.
“The Grinch selloff is firmly in place after Micron delivered a gloomy outlook and as better-than-expected U.S. economic data supported the Fed’s case for more ongoing rate increases,” wrote Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA, in a Thursday research note.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which influences mortgage rates, held steady at 3.67% from late Wednesday. The two-year Treasury yield rose to 4.23% from 4.22%.
Fed stays firm as markets thrash
Trading had been volatile throughout the week as investors grappled with the Fed’s resolve to remain aggressive in its fight against inflation, along with the risk of a potential recession in 2023.
The latest update from the government shows that the U.S. economy grew at an unexpectedly strong 3.2% annual pace from July through September. The growth during the third quarter follows a contraction during the first half of the year.
The solid economic update follows a surprisingly strong consumer confidence report on Wednesday. The overall updates remain mixed, though. Last week, the government reported that retail sales fell in November as inflation squeezed consumers. Inflation has been easing, at a relatively slow pace and not enough to convince the Fed to ease off the brakes in its policy to slow the economy.