Stocks end lower, nearing but not quite in a bear market

Business

(NewsNation) — Stocks wavered in afternoon trading Thursday as persistently high inflation continues to weigh on the economy and keeps major indexes mired in a deep slump.

The S&P 500, the benchmark for many index funds, is coming off of its biggest drop in nearly two years. It eased off an early stumble and ended up down 0.58%. It has fallen roughly 18% from the record high it set early this year. That’s just shy of the 20% point loss that defines a bear market.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 237 points, or .75 percent, at the end of the day’s trading, and the Nasdaq fell .26%.

Rising interest rates, high inflation, the war in Ukraine and a slowdown in China’s economy have caused investors to reconsider the prices they’re willing to pay for a wide range of stocks, from high-flying tech companies to traditional automakers. Investors have been worried that soaring inflation, which is already hurting people shopping for groceries and filling up their cars, will also wallop company profits.

New York Post business reporter Lydia Moynihan told NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” on Thursday that inflation was definitely a main factor to blame in the stock market tumble.

“Major indexes extended their losses today. Fortunately, it was not nearly as bad as yesterday; that was the worst day for markets since 2020,” Moynihan said. “What people are saying is this is driven by major retailers missing their earnings this week.”

Target fell an additional 4.9% a day after losing a quarter of its value on a surprisingly weak profit report.

“Basically acknowledging the fact that all these worries that people have had about inflation and supply chain issues and consumer demand waning, all of those are a reality and these retailers are now facing that reality,” Moynihan said.

Wall Street is also worried about the Federal Reserve’s plan to fight the highest inflation in four decades. The Fed is raising interest rates aggressively and investors are concerned that the central bank could cause a recession if it raises rates too high or too quickly.

Moynihan said there was “alarming news” out of the Federal Reserve when Fed Chair Jerome Powell, who has been fairly optimistic to this point, acknowledged there could be pain in reigning in inflation.

Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange in New York, Thursday, May 19, 2022. Stocks fell in morning trading on Wall Street Thursday, deepening a slump for major indexes as persistently high inflation continues to weigh on the economy. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

“The market analysts we’re talking to say the market is going to be sort of in ‘purgatory’ until we can reduce the inflationary pressures,” Moynihan said.

The 10-year Treasury pulled back to 2.85% from 2.88% late Wednesday, but it has been generally rising as investors prepare for a market with higher interest rates. That has also pushed up mortgage rates, which is contributing to a slowdown in home sales.

The pile of concerns on Wall Street has made for very choppy trading and big swings between gains and losses within any given day.

Moynihan said it is “anyone’s guess” if the market will bottom out anytime soon.

“I think these exogenous factors are going to remain. We’re going to continue to have supply chain issues and until we can reign in inflation, we’re going to be faced with these issues,” Moynihan said.

Technology stocks have been some of the most volatile holdings. The sector includes heavyweights such as Apple that have lofty valuations, which tend to push the market more forcefully up or down. The sector has been hit especially hard by the Fed’s policy shift to raise interest rates. Low rates help support investments considered more risky, including tech stocks, and higher rates lessen the incentive to take that risk.

Technology stocks fell Thursday, contributing to the choppy market. Cisco Systems slumped 14.3% after the seller of routers and switches cut its profit forecast amid supply chain constraints. Synopsis jumped 11.6% after the software company raised its financial forecasts for the year.

Household goods companies, grocery store operators and food producers fell broadly. General Mills fell 1.7% and Clorox fell 4.8%.

Retailers and other companies that rely on direct consumer spending were mostly higher. Amazon rose 0.8% and Expedia climbed 5.4%. Bath & Body Works slid 5.1% after cutting its profit forecast for the year.

With the S&P 500 little changed, the index remained close to, but not moving decidedly in the direction of falling into, a bear market. The last bear market happened just two years ago, following the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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