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Stocks sink, dollar rises as data fuels inflation, rate hike worries

Stocks sink, dollar rises as data fuels inflation, rate hike worries

STOCKS. A trader works on the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange in New York City, January 25, 2023.

Andrew Kelly/Reuters

The Dow Jones Industrial Average falls 1.26%, the S&P 500 loses 1.38%, and the Nasdaq Composite drops 1.78% on Thursday, February 16

Wall Street’s major stock indexes all fell more than 1% while the dollar hit a six-week peak and Treasury yields climbed on Thursday, February 16, after data showed higher-than-expected US producer prices for January while jobless claims fell, underscoring the view the Federal Reserve would need to keep aggressively tightening policy to fight inflation.

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell by 1,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 194,000, according to the Department of Labor. This was below economist forecasts for claims of 200,000.

Another Department of Labor report showed monthly producer prices accelerating in January with the producer price index for final demand up 0.7% compared with economist expectations of 0.4%. In the 12 months through January, PPI increased 6% compared with expectations for a 5.4% increase.

Investors also worried about hawkish comments from Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland President Loretta Mester about the last rate hike and what future changes are needed.

“We’ve had a trend of strong data,” said Michael O’Rourke, chief market strategist at JonesTrading. “The PPI was the latest, the straw that broke the camel’s back, making investors think we should be concerned. Then 15 minutes later Meister came out and said she saw a compelling case for 50 basis points rate hike at the meeting earlier this month.

“With the strong data we’ve had it gets people concerned the Fed is behind the curve on inflation once again.”

On Wednesday, February 15, a report showed US retail sales increased in January by the most in nearly two years. On Tuesday, February 14, data showed US consumer prices accelerated in January.

“It looks like inflation is a little stickier than a lot of us had hoped,” said Peter Tuz, president of Chase Investment Counsel in Charlottesville, Virginia. “If that’s the case the need for additional rate hikes and higher rates for longer is causing people to take some money out of the market, especially since the first six weeks of the year have been pretty strong.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 431.2 points, or 1.26%, to 33,696.85, the S&P 500 lost 57.19 points, or 1.38%, to 4,090.41, and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 214.76 points, or 1.78%, to 11,855.83.

After Thursday’s sell-off, the Dow was still up 1.7% year-to-date while S&P was still up 6.5% and Nasdaq was up 13.3% so far in 2023.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.72% on the day but was still up 7.1% so far for 2023.

In Treasuries after the data, 10-year yields touched their highest level since December 30 as investors bet that the Fed would hike rates higher for longer to tackle inflation.

Benchmark 10-year notes were last up 5.4 basis points to 3.861%, from 3.807% late on Wednesday.

In currencies, the dollar index was up 0.15% at 103.95, after earlier hitting a six-week high of 104.24.

But TraderX strategist Michael Brown said it was too soon to conclude that the economy would stay strong.

“The data is coming in strong and it is leading people to price out the ‘Armageddon-recession’ scenario that everyone was expecting at the start of the year, but I’m not sure one CPI (consumer price index) and one retail sales print is enough for everyone to think all is fine and dandy with the economy once more,” said Brown.

In commodities, US crude oil prices settled slightly lower after trading in a narrow range as the market weighed mixed US economic signals and prospects for a Chinese demand recovery with a build in US crude stockpiles.

US crude fell 0.1% to settle at $78.49 per barrel. Brent finished at $85.14, down 0.28% on the day.

Spot gold added 0.1% to $1,837.83 an ounce.

In the cryptocurrency world, bitcoin was higher, putting it on track for a third straight day of gains. It was last up 0.6% after rising as much as 3.86% during the day. –

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