U.S. stocks were slipping Tuesday afternoon, giving up early gains inspired by a softer-than-expected August inflation reading, as investors fretted that underlying price pressures may still prove persistent.
- The Dow Jones Industrial Average
dropped 253.88 points, or 0.7%, to 34,615.75.
- The S&P 500
was down almost 20 points, or 0.5%, at 4,448.77
- The Nasdaq Composite
edged down 31.54 points, or 0.2%, to 15,074.04.
On Monday, the Dow jumped 262 points, or 0.8%, to end at 34869, ending a five-session losing run. The S&P 500 rose 10 points, or 0.2%, to 4468, while the Nasdaq Composite slipped 10 points, or 0.1%, to 15105.
What’s driving markets
Investors are digesting fresh inflation data ahead of the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting next week, with stocks falling after initially moving higher on the U.S. government report Tuesday that the rise in cost of living slowed in August.
The U.S. consumer-price index rose 0.3% in August, while the core reading, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, was up just 0.1%. The CPI increased 5.3% year over year, compared a rise of 5.5% for the year in July. The year-over-year change in core CPI fell back to 4%, from 4.3% in July.
The markets saw an initial “relief rally” on the “little lighter than expected” read on inflation, but the latest CPI data probably won’t change the Fed’s tapering timeline, said Randy Frederick, managing director of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab, in a phone interview Tuesday. “Whatever they’re leaning towards, I don’t believe today’s numbers were far enough off the mark to change that calculus.”
Frederick, who thinks the jump in inflation during the pandemic is likely temporary, said he still expects the Fed will this year announce a reduction in its monthly bond purchases that it started in 2020 to support markets through the COVID-19 crisis.
The U.S. stock market, which has been trading near all-time highs, is now a bit vulnerable, according to Frederick. He said lowered forecasts for economic and company earnings growth have made some investors “a little uncomfortable in the last week or so,” particularly being between corporate earnings seasons for the second and third quarters.
“There’s more uncomfortable sentiment out there than there are positive catalysts,” said Frederick, though he said he believes the stock market will continue to rise higher this year. “We’re about three weeks out from the next earnings season.”
Fawad Razaqzada, analyst at ThinkMarkets, also expects that the Fed is still likely to announce a plan to begin tapering its bond purchases before the end of the year. He said in a note that the latest inflation reading reflected declines in items such as airfares, accommodation and used cars, which Fed officials had already expected to fall back. Meanwhile, worries over more persistent factors driving up price pressures remain.
“The inflation part of the taper test had already been met, and today’s report does not ‘uncheck; that box,” said Aneta Markowska, chief economist at Jefferies, in a note. She said core prices are still well above the 2% path which more than qualifies as “substantial further progress” under the Fed’s criteria for beginning to scale back its efforts to support the economy.
Earlier, the National Federation of Independent Business said its small-business optimism index rose 0.4 point in August to 100.1. Small-business owners were somewhat more optimistic about the economy, but said record shortages of labor and supplies were cutting into sales and profits.
What companies are in focus?
- Apple Inc.
will be in the spotlight as the megacap tech star launches its latest iPhones at an event due to start at 1 p.m. Eastern. Shares fell 0.7%.
- Shares of database software giant Oracle Corp.
fell 3.5%, as its revenue for its fiscal first quarter came in below Wall Street estimates.
- Intuit Inc.
shares rose 2.2% after the TurboTax maker late Monday agreed to buy email-marketing pioneer MailChimp for about $12 billion.
- Shares of Herbalife Nutrition Ltd.
dropped nearly 20% after the nutrition products company late Monday cut its outlook after providing one a little over a month ago because of lingering pandemic slowness.
- Shares of Sportradar Group AG
fell about 5.5% Tuesday, after the Switzerland-based sports betting and sports entertainment products company’s initial public offering priced overnight at $27 a share.
How are other assets trading?
- The yield on the 10-year Treasury note
was down about 4 basis points at 1.287%. Yields and debt prices move in opposite directions.
- The ICE U.S. Dollar Index
a measure of the currency against a basket of six major rivals, fell 0.2%.
- Oil futures rose, with the U.S. benchmark
up 0.5% at $70.83 a barrel. Gold futures
rose 0.7% to settle at $1,807.10 an ounce.
- In European equities, the Stoxx Europe 600
closed about flat, dipping less than 0.1%, while London’s FTSE 100
- Chinese stocks continued to come under pressure, with the Shanghai Composite
falling 1.4% and the Hang Seng
dropping 1.2%. Analysts continue to focus on the declining fortunes of property giant China Evergrande
and a key slate of economics data is due on Wednesday.
—Steve Goldstein contributed to this report
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