By Johann M Cherian and Noel Randewich
(Reuters) – Wall Street ended sharply lower on Thursday after unexpectedly strong inflation data and a drop in weekly jobless claims added to fears that the U.S. Federal Reserve will keep raising interest rates to tame high prices.
A Labor Department report showed the highest rise in producer prices in seven months in January as the cost of energy products surged.
It also showed the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, offering more evidence that the labor market remains tight.
Thursday’s economic data and other reports this week paint a picture of still-stubborn inflation and an economy that remains relatively strong in the face of the Fed’s rate hike campaign.
“With data like this, the Fed is going to keep raising rates, and none of us want that,” said Tim Ghriskey, senior portfolio strategist at Ingalls & Snyder in New York. “There are at least whispers now of the possibility of a 50 basis point hike at the next meeting.”
After a selloff in 2022, the S&P 500 has climbed about 7% so far in 2023, fueled by upbeat earnings and cautious expectations the U.S. central bank has completed the brunt of its rate hike campaign.
The Fed is seen pushing the benchmark rate above the 5% mark by May and keeping it above those levels till the year-end.
Also on Thursday, Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester said inflation remains too high, and noted that she was open to raising rates by more than what her colleagues wanted at the last monetary policy meeting. St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said continued rate increases will “lock in” slowing inflation, even with continued economic growth.
Selling on Wall Street accelerated late in the session. The S&P 500 declined 1.38% to end at 4,090.51 points.
The Nasdaq declined 1.78% to 11,855.83 points, while Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 1.26% to 33,696.39 points.
Tesla Inc slid 5.7% as the electric vehicle maker said it was recalling 362,000 U.S. vehicles and fixing them via an over-the-air software update after the U.S. auto regulator said its Full Self-Driving Beta software may cause a crash.
Traders exchanged $47 billion worth of Tesla shares, accounting for a fifth of all transactions in S&P 500 stocks.
Cisco Systems Inc rose 5.2% and hit a nine-month high after the network gear maker raised its full-year earnings forecast.
Roku Inc soared 11% after the video streaming company forecast first-quarter revenue above market estimates.
Shopify Inc sank almost 16% after the Canadian e-commerce company forecast slowing revenue growth for the current quarter despite price hikes and new product launches.
Across the U.S. stock market, declining stocks outnumbered rising ones by a 2.5-to-one ratio.
The S&P 500 posted 9 new highs and 1 new lows; the Nasdaq recorded 90 new highs and 58 new lows.
Volume on U.S. exchanges was relatively light, with 11.0 billion shares traded, compared to an average of 11.7 billion shares over the previous 20 sessions.
(Reporting by Johann M Cherian and Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru and by Noel Randewich in Oakland, Calif.; Editing by Anil D’Silva, Sriraj Kalluvila, Shinjini Ganguli and Aurora Ellis)