Stocks sway on Wall Street; tech gains counter wider losses
Stocks shifted between small gains and losses in morning trading on Wall Street Thursday as investors continue weighing the latest updates from the Federal Reserve amid concerns about rising inflation.
The S&P 500 fell 0.2% as of 10:22 a.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 240 points, or 0.7%, to 34,256 and the Nasdaq fell 0.1%.
Health care stocks made solid gains, along with some big technology companies. Pfizer rose 2.3%. Computer and printer maker HP surged 17.3% after Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway disclosed an 11% stake in the company.
Those gains helped temper the impact from losses elsewhere in the market. Industrial stocks fell broadly. General Electric slipped 3%. Banks and other financial companies also fell. JPMorgan slipped 1.9% and Charles Schwab fell 2%.
Bond yields rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 2.63% from 2.61% late Wednesday.
Every major index is in the red for the week following two big losses that were partly prompted by concerns over the Fed's shifting policy as it tries to combat the impact from rising inflation.
Minutes from the Fed’s meeting last month showed policymakers agreed to begin cutting the central bank's stockpile of Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities by about $95 billion a month, starting in May. That’s more than some investors expected and nearly double the pace the last time the Fed shrank its balance sheet.
The central bank is reversing course from low interest rates and the extraordinary support it began providing for the economy two years ago when the pandemic knocked the economy into a recession. It already announced a quarter-percentage point and is expected to keep raising rates throughout the year.
Traders are now pricing in a nearly 80% probability the Fed will raise its key overnight rate by half a percentage point at its next meeting in May. That’s double the usual amount and something the Fed hasn’t done since 2000.
Persistently rising inflation has been threatening economic growth. Business have been raising prices on everything from food to clothing and that has put more pressure on consumers. Some companies have been unable to offset the impact from inflation, even with price hikes.
Duncan Hines and Birds Eye brands maker ConAgra cut its financial forecast for the year and said another round of price increases will be needed.
Wall Street is concerned about consumers eventually pulling back on spending as higher prices become too difficult to digest. Price increases were responsible for a rise in consumer spending in March, otherwise, the results revealed a pullback.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine has added to concerns about the duration of rising inflation. Energy prices have been particularly volatile and pushed gasoline prices higher. Crude oil prices were relatively stable on Thursday, but are up 30% for the year.
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