Stocks fell Thursday in a sharp reversal, as a jump in Treasury yields offset the optimism coming from another batch of solid corporate earnings.
The S&P 500 eased 0.8%, and the Nasdaq Composite dipped 1.2%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average traded lower by 133 points, or 0.4%.
The major averages were all up sharply earlier in the day, as traders cheered strong quarterly earnings. The Dow was up as much as 331 points, or 0.9%; the S&P 500 and Nasdaq each jumped more than 1% at their highs of the day.
Treasury yields were up sharply on the day, with the benchmark 10-year rate trading more than 9 basis points higher at 2.92% — near its highest level since late 2018.
The 10-year started the year near 1.5% and has shot up as the Federal Reserve tightens monetary policy to get a hold of soaring prices in the U.S.
“Although we expect inflation to peak very soon, if it hasn’t already done so, continued supply chain disruptions and a slow increase in labor force participation due to retirements and continued concerns over Covid, could easily keep the inflation rate more than double the Fed’s 2% target,” wrote Joseph Kalish, chief global macro strategist at Ned Davis Research.
“As a result, the Fed may need to hike rates more than the peak 3.25% to 3.50% range currently priced into the markets a year from now,” he added.
Thursday’s move in rates came as Fed Chairman Jerome Powell signaled that bigger rate hikes may be coming next month.
Speaking at the International Monetary Fund Debate on the Global Economy, Powell said it is “appropriate in my view to be moving a little more quickly” to raise interest rates. “I also think there is something to be said for front-end loading any accommodation one thinks is appropriate. … I would say 50 basis points will be on the table for the May meeting.”
Despite market expectations for a series of aggressive interest rate increases, Fed officials in recent days have talked down making any dramatic moves.
Regional presidents Mary Daly of San Francisco, Charles Evans of Chicago and Raphael Bostic of Atlanta all have said that while they see the need to hike rates to tame inflation, they don’t want to do anything that would halt the expansion. Daly did concede that tighter policy could trigger a mild recession but she said that’s not her most likely case.
St. Louis Fed President James Bullard has been the outlier, saying earlier in the week that he’s open to a 0.75 percentage point increase at the May meeting to help temper inflation running at a more than 40-year high.
Investors also pored over the latest quarterly reports, which included stronger-than-expected numbers from Tesla.
Tesla shares jumped more than 6% after its first-quarter numbers beat analyst expectations, thanks in part to strong car deliveries. Several analysts lauded Tesla after the release, with one calling it a “core holding.”
United added roughly 10% after the airline forecasted a profit in 2022. CEO Scott Kirby told CNBC on Wednesday he’d never seen “such a hockey stick increase of demand,” referring to business travel and leisure bookings.
More than 17% of S&P 500 companies have reported earnings through Thursday’s open, with nearly 81% of those names beating analyst expectations, according to FactSet.
“I’m cautiously optimistic that earnings will keep beating, with a couple of outliers,” Jeff Kilburg, chief investment officer, at Sanctuary Wealth, told CNBC.
“‘Boring’ names – American staple names that we forgot about – are doing better than expected,” he continued, citing IBM as an example. “It’s a big divergence from sentiment, especially with the 10-year [Treasury yield] nearly doubling. The shift from growth to value is really hitting its stride.”
Elsewhere on Wall Street, Warner Bros. Discovery retreated 8.3% after news of the company shutting down CNN+.
Stocks are coming off a mixed session Wednesday. The Dow posted solid gains — boosted by strong earnings from Procter & Gamble — while the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite was dragged down 1% by Netflix’s post-report plunge.
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