Stocks end lower in choppy trading, on pace for weekly loss

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FILE – The New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday, June 29, 2022, in New York. Stocks are opening mostly higher on Wall Street, Thursday, Aug. 25, but major indexes remain in the red for the week. Stocks are off to a slightly higher start on Wall Street, Wednesday, Aug. 31, but major indexes remain lower for the week after several days of declines. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson, File)

(AP) — Stocks closed lower in another day of choppy trading on Wall Street, which is on pace for a weekly loss after several days of declines. Losses in technology and retail stocks outweighed gains in communications and other sectors.

The S&P 500 lost nearly 1% Wednesday after wavering between gains and losses. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and Nasdaq composite also lost ground.

Bed Bath & Beyond lost almost a quarter of its value after announcing a major restructuring and a stock sale. Treasury yields were mixed and energy prices fell. The market closed August broadly lower after surging in July.

Technology stocks and big retailers were among the heaviest weights on the market. Chipmaker Nvidia fell 2.1% and Best Buy slid 5.4%.

Energy companies fell as the price of U.S. crude oil dropped 2.3%. Occidental Petroleum slipped 1%.

Those losses kept gains in communications stocks and elsewhere in the market in check. Meta Platforms rose 4%.

Bed Bath & Beyond sank 19.9% after announcing a major restructuring and a stock sale, while Snap, the operator of the Snapchat messaging app, jumped 9.1% after announcing it will lay off 20% of its work force.

FILE – A pedestrian walks past the New York Stock Exchange Monday, Jan. 24, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

Investors had their eye on the latest company quarterly report cards and outlooks. ChargePoint Holdings vaulted 14.7% after the electric vehicle charging network operator said its second-quarter revenue nearly doubled. Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger brands owner PVH slid 9.9% after the company cut its forecasts for full-year results.

Smaller company stocks also fell, pulling the Russell 2000 index 0.4% lower.

Bond yields were mixed. The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which influences interest rates on mortgages and other consumer loans, rose to 3.14% from 3.11% late Tuesday.

European markets were lower and Asian markets closed mixed Wednesday.

Stocks got off to a solid start in early August, continuing a July rally. Investors were encouraged to see signs that inflation, while still high, was leveling off. That fueled optimism on Wall Street that the Federal Reserve might be able to ease back on raising interest rates, its main weapon in its fight to bring inflation down. Those gains followed a weak first half of the year where the S&P 500 dropped 20% from its most recent high and entered a bear market.

That optimism faded by mid-August as the central bank signaled it would keep raising rates and keep them high as long as necessary to tame the the hottest inflation in four decades. On Friday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell underscored the Fed’s intention in a speech at the central bank’s annual symposium.

Wall Street is worried that the Fed could hit the brakes too hard on an already slowing economy and veer it into a recession. Higher interest rates also hurt investment prices, especially for pricier stocks like those of technology companies.

Traders are now trying to get a better sense of how far and how quickly the Fed’s rate hikes will go, beginning with the central bank’s upcoming interest rate policy meeting Sept. 20-21. The Fed has already raised interest rates four times this year and is expected to raise short-term rates by another 0.75 percentage points at its September meeting, according to CME Group.

FILE- A sign for New York Stock Exchange is displayed on the floor at the NYSE in New York, Wednesday, July 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

Investors have been closely watching economic data for any additional signs that the economy is slowing down or that inflation may be cooling or at least holding at its current level. Businesses and consumers have been hit hard by rising prices on everything from food to clothing, but recent declines in gasoline prices have provided some relief.

Strong U.S. employment data has helped fuel expectations of more interest rate hikes. The Labor Department reported Tuesday there were two jobs for every unemployed person in July, giving ammunition to Fed officials who argue the economy can tolerate more rate hikes to tame inflation that is at multi-decade highs.

On Wednesday, payroll processor ADP said its latest monthly survey of hiring by private U.S. companies showed payrolls increased by 132,000, well below the 275,000 economists expected, according to FactSet. The company also said wage growth was in line with recent monthly snapshots.

“The downward trend in hiring recently suggests that the economy and job market are slowing, a worrying sign for investors, especially after Powell’s commentary last week that the Fed will maintain course with aggressive hikes to combat inflation,” said Peter Essele, head of portfolio management for Commonwealth Financial Network. “If the current trend of softening economic reports continues, September could be a rocky month for investors, reaffirming its position as the worst calendar month for markets historically.”

The ADP survey comes ahead of employment reports from the Labor Department this week: applications for unemployment benefits on Thursday and the August jobs report Friday. Analysts expect both to show a robust labor market.

In Europe, markets fell after a report showed inflation in countries using the euro hit another record in August as energy prices soared, largely because of Russia’s war in Ukraine. Annual inflation in the eurozone’s 19 countries rose to 9.1%, up from 8.9% in July, according to the European Union statistics agency Eurostat.

Inflation is at the highest levels since record-keeping for the euro began in 1997. The latest figures add pressure on European Central Bank officials to continue raising interest rates, which can tame inflation, but also stifle economic growth.

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