Wall Street inches down for third day as growth concerns weigh on tech

MAJOR Wall Street indexes ended lower on Thursday, falling for a third straight session as investors reacted to the US Federal Reserve’s latest aggressive move to rein in inflation by selling growth stocks, including technology companies.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 107.1 points or 0.35% to 30,076.68, the S&P 500 lost 31.94 points or 0.84% to 3,757.99 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 153.39 points or 1.37% to 11,066.81.

On Wednesday (Sept 21), the Fed lifted rates by an expected 75 basis points and signalled a longer trajectory for policy rates than markets had priced in, fuelling fears of further volatility in stock and bond trading in a year that has already seen bear markets in both asset classes.

The US central bank’s projections for economic growth released on Wednesday were also eye-catching with growth of just 0.2% this year, rising to 1.2% for 2023.

Jitters were already present in the market after a number of companies – most recently FedEx Corp and Ford Motor Co – issued dire outlooks for earnings.

As of Friday, the S&P 500’s estimated earnings growth for the third quarter is at 5%, according to Refinitiv data. Excluding the energy sector, the growth rate is at -1.7%.

The S&P 500’s forward price-to-earnings ratio, a common metric for valuing stocks, is at 16.8 times earnings – far below the nearly 22 times forward P/E that stocks commanded at the start of the year.

Nine of the 11 major S&P sectors fell, led by declines of 2.2% and 1.7% respectively in consumer discretionary and financial stocks.

Shares of megacap technology and growth companies such as Amazon.com Inc, Tesla Inc and Nvidia Corp fell between 1% and 5.3% as benchmark US Treasury yields hit an 11-year high.

Rising yields weigh particularly on valuations of companies in the technology sector which have high expected future earnings and form a significant part of the market-cap weighted indexes such as the S&P 500.

The S&P 500 tech sector has slumped 28% so far this year compared with a 21.2% decline in the benchmark index.

“If we continue to have sticky inflation – and if (Fed Chair Jerome) Powell sticks to his guns as he indicates – I think we enter recession and we see significant drawdown on earnings expectations,” said Mike Mullaney, director of global markets at Boston Partners.

“If this happens, I have high conviction under those conditions that we break 3,636,” he added, referring to the S&P 500’s mid-June low, its weakest point of the year.

Major US airlines which have enjoyed a rebound amid increased travel as pandemic restrictions end were also down with United Airlines and American Airlines falling 4.6% and 3.9% respectively. This took losses in the last three days to 11% for United and 10.6% for American.

JetBlue Airways Corp, off 7.1% and also recording a third straight loss, closed at its lowest level since March 2020.

Volume on US exchanges was 11.39 billion shares, compared with the 10.91 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.

The S&P 500 posted one new 52-week high and 123 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 18 new highs and 699 new lows. – Sept 23, 2022

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