Wall Street ends lower as Fed worries outweigh earnings

Reuters | October 20, 2022

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By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. stocks closed lower on Thursday as data on the labor market and comments from a U.S. Federal Reserve official reinforced expectations the central bank will be aggressive in hiking interest rates outweighed a flurry of solid corporate earnings.

Stocks initially rose early in the session, boosted by gains in names such as IBM, up 4.73% after the IT services company beat quarterly earnings estimates on Wednesday and said it expects to exceed full-year revenue growth targets. AT&T Inc surged 7.72% upon raising its annual profit forecast.

But stocks were unable to hold their gains as strong weekly jobless claims and comments from Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia President Patrick Harker bolstered concerns about the Fed hiking rates and potentially tilting the economy into a recession.

Harker said the Fed is not done raising its short-term rate target as high inflation persists, helping to push the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note to its highest level since June 2008 at 4.239%.

“It’s interest rates that are driving equity volatility, that is the way we have been looking at things all year, that is kind of the precursor of seeing things calm down in the equity space and feeling better about adding risk there is seeing volatility decline in interest rates,” said Zachary Hill, head of portfolio management at Horizon Investments in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“I’m not sure we are going to be able to see that pause that a few Fed members have been pointing to and certainly a few market participants have been kind of latching on to.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 90.22 points, or 0.3%, to 30,333.59, the S&P 500 lost 29.38 points, or 0.80%, to 3,665.78 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 65.66 points, or 0.61%, to 10,614.84.

Better-than-expected results thus far has pushed earnings growth expectations for third-quarter for S&P 500 companies to 3.1% from a 2.8% increase earlier in the week, but still well below the 11.1% increase that was forecast at the start of July.

Tesla Inc slumped 6.65% as the electric-vehicle maker flagged persistent logistics challenges, with fourth-quarter deliveries growing by less than the aimed 50%.

Stocks have been under pressure this year as concerns about the impact of the Fed’s aggressive path of interest rate hikes on corporate earnings and the overall economy have mounted as the central bank tries to quell stubbornly high inflation.

Other data showed sales of existing homes fell for an eight straight month, while another reading showed factory activity in the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s district contracted again in October.

The U.S. central bank is widely expected to announce a fourth straight 75 basis-point hike at its November meeting, with an outside chance of a full percentage point increase.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 11.37 billion shares, compared with the 11.62 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 2.12-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.34-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 3 new 52-week highs and 28 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 53 new highs and 239 new lows.

(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Aurora Ellis)