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U.S. stocks fell on Wednesday as the major averages looked to give back gains after rising for back-to-back sessions.
The S&P 500 dropped by more than 0.5% just after market open. The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed more than 200 points, and the Nasdaq Composite fell by about 0.5%. All three major averages had kicked off this week with gains, rising on both Monday and Tuesday.
West Texas intermediate crude oil prices (CL=F) rose above $120 per barrel and reached the highest level since March, and the benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury yield resumed its climb above 3%. Shares of Target (TGT) headed for a third straight day of losses after the retailer issued another guidance cut and projected more discounts to move through inventory. Meanwhile, Novavax (NVAX) shares soared after the pharmaceutical company won backing from the Food and Drug Administration for its COVID-19 vaccine.
Despite the early-week advances, the major U.S. stock indexes have remained overall choppy as investors weighed individual company warnings on inflation and the macroeconomic backdrop against policymakers’ efforts to bring down elevated prices. The Federal Reserve remains in a quiet period ahead of its forthcoming policy-setting meeting next week, which is overwhelmingly expected to set the stage for the central bank to roll out a second 50 basis-point interest rate hike.
And other policymakers also reaffirmed that cooling red-hot inflation pressures remains a key priority. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told senators on Tuesday that she expected inflation to remain high and reaffirmed that she saw price increases as being driven by Russia’s war in Ukraine, the pandemic-era shift to goods purchases, and ongoing supply chain issues.
“Watching the market … as it teeters between inching ahead and pulling back, suggests that until there’s a more definitive reading on the inflation front coupled with the Fed’s thinking on further rate hikes in September, we can expect this bounce back and forth,” Quincy Krosby, chief equity strategist for LPL Financial, said in an email.
“Given the uncertainty the market has to discount, and not the least how corporate earnings will fare as the economy slows further, having a market that wobbles a bit before it makes up its mind is probably the healthiest course, at least for now,” Krosby added.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics is poised to release its latest Consumer Price Index on Friday, which is expected to show inflation eased only marginally in May from April’s elevated 8.3% rate. Consensus economists are looking for headline inflation to rise at a 8.2% annual rate for May, and by 5.9% excluding food and energy prices.
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