U.S. stocks dropped sharply Friday, with major indexes posting their lowest finishes since 2020 and logging a third straight quarterly decline as investors grew more fearful that aggressive interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve will drive the economy into a downturn in an attempt to quell inflation.
- The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -1.71% dropped 500.10 points, or 1.7%, to close at 28,725.51.
- The S&P 500 SPX, -1.51% dropped 54.85 points, or 1.5%, to end at 3,585.61.
- The Nasdaq Composite COMP, -0.43% shed 161.88 points, of 1.5%, finishing at 10,575.61.
The drop left the Dow and S&P 500 at their lowest since November 2020, while the Nasdaq posted its lowest close since July 29, 2020. The Dow dropped 8.8% in September, while the S&P 500 tumbled 9.3% and the Nasdaq lost 10.5%.
For the quarter, the Dow dropped 6.7%, the S&P 500 declined 5.3% and the Nasdaq gave up 4.1%.
What’s driving the market
In keeping with the historical pattern, U.S. stocks suffered during the month of September as an assertive Federal Reserve helped push Treasury yields and the dollar higher, which in turn undermined equity valuations.
Investors on Friday digested a reading from the personal consumption expenditure inflation index for August, which showed that core consumer prices climbed by 0.6% last month, more than Wall Street’s forecast of 0.5%. The core inflation measure excludes volatile food and energy prices.
“That means the Fed will remain hell-bent on killing inflation. And the best way to do that is to increase rates, kill the housing market, and get rental costs down. The PCE doesn’t have housing and rents as a big component as the CPI does, so the fact that it is rising is a warning sign,” said Louis Navellier, founder of Navellier & Associates, in emailed comments.
The reading largely confirmed similar data from the consumer-price index, another closely watched inflation barometer, which sent stocks lower earlier this month. Since that report was released just over two weeks ago, the S&P 500 has fallen more than 10%.
Helping to underscore this point, data out of the eurozone showed inflation accelerated at a record pace last month.
In other news, investors also heard from Fed Vice Chair Lael Brainard, who reiterated that the central bank would keep interest rates elevated to combat inflation, even if it harms the economy.
Since it will take time for high interest rates to bring inflation down, Brainard said the Fed is “committed to avoiding pulling back prematurely.”
Investors were also keeping an eye on megacap tech stocks. Apple Inc. AAPL fell 3% on Friday after leading markets lower a day earlier following a downgrade by Bank of America.
A final reading on the University of Michigan consumer-sentiment index for September showed consumers’ view of the economy improved somewhat during the month due to falling gas prices, even as their outlook remained broadly pessimistic.
Investors are now facing “what may be one of the most important earning seasons in a very long time, with a major rally in the cards if earnings don’t disappoint, and if the bears are right, lead to a further leg down if earnings disappoint and 4th quarter estimates are cut,” Navellier said.
Stocks in focus
- Shares of Nike Inc. NKE, -12.81% tumbled 12.8% after executives at the sportswear maker said price cuts to clear stockpiles from warehouses in North America would dent gross margins for the rest of the fiscal year. Analysts were raising red flags and cutting prices targets on the stock.
- Micron Technology MU, +0.18% stock rose 0.2% after a report that Japan will grant it a $320 million subsidy to make advanced memory chips at its Hiroshima plant. That came a day after Micron posted quarterly earnings that included a forecast for a loss in the coming quarter and plans to scale back a build out of capacity.
— Steve Goldstein and Barbara Kollmeyer contributed to this article