U.S. stocks meander after sharp drop on economic concerns

U.S. stocks meander after sharp drop on economic concerns

U.S. stocks meandered Friday, ending a punishing week mixed after tumbling the prior day on fears that economic activity would be curtailed by interest rate hikes to cool inflation.

After turning tail on Thursday, benchmark indexes fell in afternoon trading, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average dipping 38 points, or 0.1%, to close at 28,889. The S&P 500 rose 8 points, or 0.2%, and the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite gained 152 points, or 1.4%. 

The S&P 500 index lost 3.3% on Thursday and other major benchmarks also sank after Britain’s central bank followed the Federal Reserve in raising its key rate. Central banks in Switzerland and Taiwan also raised rates.

Investors worry the moves to control inflation that is running at four-decade highs might tip the U.S. and other major economies into recession.

“Pain is being inflicted almost everywhere and sharing doesn’t make it better in any way,” said Tan Boon Heng of Mizuho Bank in a report.

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On Thursday, the Dow lost 2.4% and the Nasdaq dropped 4.1%. At 23.6% below its January 3 record, the S&P remains in bear-market territory. The decrease erases gains from 2021, one of Wall Street’s best years this century.

Along with raising borrowing costs, some of the trillions of dollars of bonds bought by the Fed to inject money into the U.S. financial system during the pandemic are being allowed to roll off its balance sheet. That should put upward pressure on market interest rates.

Fewer American workers filed for unemployment benefits last week than a week before. 

President Joe Biden told The Associated Press on Thursday he saw reasons for optimism. A recession is “not inevitable,” Biden said.

Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics, goes even further to say that “the economy is nowhere near a recession.” 

“Employment and industrial production are both expanding at an unusually rapid pace,” the analyst said in a research note.


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