U.S. stocks finished mostly lower on Wednesday as investors digested disappointing results from tech behemoths Microsoft and Alphabet, while reassessing the Federal Reserve’s path after the Bank of Canada delivered a smaller-than-expected rate hike.
How stocks traded
- The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.01% eked out a gain of 2.37 points, or less than 0.1%, at 31,839.11.
- The S&P 500 SPX, -0.74% fell 28.51 points, or 0.7%, ending at 3,830.60.
- The Nasdaq Composite declined 228.12 points, or 2%, to finish at 10,970.99.
The Dow’s meager gain saw it stretch its winning streak to four sessions, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq snapped a three-day string of gains.
What drove markets
Stocks saw choppy trade, with the Dow posting solid gains and the S&P erasing initial losses before both turned south to join the Nasdaq Composite in negative territory after disappointing earnings from Microsoft Corp. MSFT, -7.72% and Google parent Alphabet Inc. GOOG, -9.63% GOOGL, -9.14% late Tuesday.
The morning bounce for stocks came after the Bank of Canada’s smaller-than-expected rate rise buoyed hopes that the Federal Reserve may eventually be less aggressive in hiking rates.
Also helping to boosting the positive sentiment in the morning was the continued slide on Wednesday in bond yields TMUBMUSD10Y, 4.021% and the dollar DXY, +0.06%. The yield on the 10-year Treasury retreated 9.5 basis point to 4.014% from 4.109% as of Tuesday afternoon. The ICE U.S. Dollar Index, a measure of the currency against a basket of six major rivals, was down 1.1% at 109.68, as offshore Chinese yuan CNHUSD, -0.71% surged 1.8% to 7.1917 after Chinese banks were reported to sell the greenback to help drive the move.
“The U.S. dollar’s near parabolic rise against major currencies has eased as data releases, including manufacturing, housing, and even the seemingly stubborn labor market, suggest the economy is slowing in response to higher interest rates,” wrote Quincy Krosby, chief global strategist for LPL Financial, in a Wednesday note. “The stronger dollar has become a major headwind for S&P 500 multinationals, especially amid a backdrop of weaker global demand.”
Speculation has mounted over the potential for the Federal Reserve to reduce the size of its rate increases in December after delivering what’s expected to be another supersize 75 basis point jump when policy makers meet next week.
The Bank of Canada’s decision Wednesday to raise its key overnight lending rate by 50 basis points, or half a percentage point, to 3.75%, was seen reinforcing that expectation, analysts said. Nine of 12 economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had forecasted a 75 basis point rise.
Fed-funds futures traders see a 89.3% probability of a 75 basis point hike by the Fed next week, according to the CME FedWatch tool. But the probability of a 75 basis point rise in December fell to 38.6% from 50.8% on Tuesday, while the probability of a 50-basis point rise rose to 55.3% from 47.4%.
“I think it’s reasonable to believe that the Fed will slow (its rate hikes),” said Larry Cordisco, co-chief investment officer at Osterweis Capital Management. However, “where I think there may be too much hope in the market with people seeing the pause as sort of a way station on the way to a pivot,” Cordisco said.
“I just think the Feds going to be very reluctant to pivot, even if the economy’s in a bit of a recessionary period as long as inflation remains high. It’s tough to see how inflation comes down rapidly to their 2% target side,” Cordisco said.
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Advertising on both Google and YouTube was “a bit softer than what people wanted, even when you take into account foreign exchange headwinds,” said Cordisco. “That’s a sign of economy decelerating a little bit.”
Microsoft Corp. shares finished 7.7% lower on Wednesday as the company’s cloud-computing growth hit a sudden deceleration and executives guided for holiday-season revenue to come in more than $2 billion lower than expectations.
In U.S. economic data, the trade deficit in goods widened 5.7% in September to $92.2 billion as a strong dollar hindered exports.
Companies in focus
- Boeing Co. BA, -8.77% shares finished 8.8% lower after the aircraft maker reported a widening third-quarter loss and revenue that missed analysts’ estimates by almost $2 billion amid what the company’s CEO described as a “challenging environment.”
- Visa Inc. V, +4.60% shares rose 4.6%, after the company topped earnings expectations for its latest quarter Tuesday. Payments volume at grew 10% in the fiscal fourth quarter, while processed transactions increased 12%. Visa’s revenue rose to $7.79 billion from $6.56 billion and came in ahead of the FactSet consensus, which was for $7.55 billion.
- Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. CMG, -6.82% shared ended 6.8% lower after the restaurant chain on Tuesday reported continued growth, with third-quarter profit beating analysts’ expectations, though its price increases have caused lower-income customers to pull back.
- Skechers USA Inc. SKX, -9.80% shares dropped 9.8% after the maker of sneakers missed profit expectations for its latest quarter and delivered an outlook that came in below the consensus view.
—Jamie Chisholm contributed reporting