Stock Market

Dow, Nasdaq turn lower in choppy trade on eve of expected half-point Fed interest rate hike

U.S. stock indexes were mixed heading toward the closing bell Tuesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and Nasdaq Composite turning lower, on the eve of what’s expected to be the most aggressive Federal Reserve monetary policy tightening in two decades.

How are stock indexes performing?
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average

    fell almost 18 points, or 0.1%, to about 33,044.

  • The S&P 500

    was up 9 points, or 0.2%, at about 4,165.

  • The Nasdaq Composite

    slipped almost 8 points, or 0.1%, to 12,528.

On Monday, the Dow rose 84 points, or 0.3%, while the S&P 500 gained 0.6% and the Nasdaq Composite gained 1.6%.

What’s driving markets?

Major U.S. stock indexes were up Tuesday afternoon in New York in a choppy session of trade.

The market’s in a “tug-of-war between those who think the Federal Reserve will have to tighten a lot and kill the economy” versus those who believe the Fed won’t have to do as much as what’s already “priced in” for this year, said Brent Schutte, chief investment officer at Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Co., in a phone interview.

Schutte, who expects the Fed will announce on Wednesday that it’s raising its benchmark interest rate by 50 basis points, said that “financial conditions are already becoming more restrictive” as the market has already priced in “a substantial amount of tightening” by the central bank this year. “I’m in the camp that believes the Federal Reserve won’t have to tighten as much as what the markets currently have priced in,” he said.

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The Federal Open Market Committee on Tuesday kicked off a two-day meeting that is expected to end with its first half percentage point rate hike since 2000, as well as a plan to reduce the size of its balance sheet. Fed Chair Jerome Powell will hold a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

Read: Fed on track for biggest rate hike since 2000

Both stocks and bonds suffered a miserable April, with the S&P 500 sliding nearly 9% and the JPMorgan U.S. Aggregate Bond ETF

dropping almost 4%, according to FactSet data.

“It’s still definitely a messy market,” said George Cipolloni, portfolio manager at Penn Mutual Asset Management, in a phone interview Tuesday. While all three major stock benchmarks were up earlier Tuesday afternoon, he said those “decent” gains felt “tentative” as investors continue to worry about the Fed meeting and digest company earnings. “It feels like it could turn on a dime,” he said of the market.

On Monday stocks rebounded from losses seen earlier in that session after the 10-year Treasury yield

touched 3% for the first time since December 2018, but failed to press above the threshold, leading some investors to argue that the Treasury selloff may have run its course at least for the short term. The 10-year yield fell 3.8 basis points Tuesday to 2.957%, according to Dow Jones Market data.

“On the positive side, the market is currently so oversold, any good news could lead to a vicious bear market rally. We can’t rule anything out in the short term but we want to make it clear this bear market is far from completed, in our view,” wrote analysts led by Morgan Stanley’s Mike Wilson, in a note.

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They said the S&P 500 could fall as low as 3,460, the 200-week moving average, if forward 12-month earnings per share start to fall on margin and/or recession concerns.

Also read: ‘You don’t want to own bonds and stocks’ in this environment, says legendary investor who called ’87 crash

Meanwhile the U.S. corporate earnings reporting season rolls on with results from companies including Pfizer
and after the close, Advanced Micro Devices

and Starbucks

Companies that miss their earnings estimates risk “getting hit pretty hard,” said Penn Mutual’s Cipolloni. And “if you beat, you’re going up,” but shares probably won’t rise as much as they used to, he said. 

Economic data released Friday underlined a tight labor market. U.S. job openings climbed to a record 11.5 million in March, while the number of people quitting also hit an all-time high.

Meanwhile, orders for U.S. manufactured goods rose by a stronger-than-expected 2.2% in April, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.

Market participants might also be discussing the political, and therefore economic, consequences of the reported draft ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that would overturn the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion.

Which companies are in focus?
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How other assets are faring?
  • The ICE U.S. Dollar Index
    a measure of the currency against a basket of six major rivals, was down 0.3%.

  • Oil futures

    ended lower, with West Texas Intermediate crude for June delivery falling 2.6% to settle at $102.41 barrel. Gold futures

    ended higher, with gold for June delivery rising 0.4% to settle at $1,870.60 an ounce.

  • Bitcoin

    fell 1.7% to $37,659.

  • In European equities, the Stoxx Europe 600

    closed 0.5% higher. London’s FTSE 100

    rose 0.2%.

  • In Asia, the Hang Seng Index

    edged up 0.1% in Hong Kong, while many other Asian markets were closed for a holiday.

—Steve Goldstein contributed to this report.

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