Market Snapshot: Dow turns higher, S&P 500 heads for weekly losses as traders bet on more Fed rate hikes

U.S. stocks were mixed Friday afternoon, with the S&P 500 index and Dow heading for modest weekly losses after hotter-than-expected inflation reports and commentary from Federal Reserve officials spurred investors to bet on more interest-rate hikes by the central bank.

How stocks are trading
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average

    was up nearly 103 points, or 0.3%, at around 33,800.

  • The S&P 500

    slipped almost 15 points, or 0.4%, to around 4,076.

  • The Nasdaq Composite

    shed nearly 85 points, or 0.7%, to 11,771.

For the week, the Dow was on track to slip 0.2%, potentially logging its third-straight weekly drop in what would be the longest such streak since September. The S&P 500 was heading for a 0.4% drop, on track to book back-to-back weekly declines for the first time this year. The technology-heavy Nasdaq was on pace to gain 0.5% for the week, FactSet data show, at last check.

What’s driving markets

After the S&P 500 index saw a five month high in early February, U.S. stocks have continued to slide this week as hotter-than-expected economic data spurred expectations that the Federal Reserve could raise its policy rate well above 5% and keep it there until at least early 2024.

The stock market appears to be adjusting to the idea that the Fed might be “tighter for longer,” said John Bailer, deputy head of equity income at Newton Investment Management, in a phone interview Friday. “The Fed needs to dampen down demand.”

While the central bank has been tightening its monetary policy to cool consumer demand for goods and services and bring down inflation, the stock market had been looking ahead to a potential pause in the Fed’s interest-rate hikes later this year.

Markets stumbled after the release of the producer-price index for January on Thursday, which showed wholesale prices accelerated by 0.7% last month, the sharpest increase since the summer. The January CPI report, released earlier in the week, showed that prices paid by consumers failed to moderate as much as expected.

Speaking in Tennessee Friday morning, Fed Gov. Michelle Bowman expressed concern that inflation isn’t subsiding quickly enough, which means the Fed must continue hiking interest rates. “I don’t think we’re seeing what we need to be seeing, especially with inflation,” Bowman said.

The U.S. labor market has appeared strong in the face of rate hikes, with a low unemployment rate, but there also have been signs of a slowing economy. The Conference Board said Friday that its U.S. leading economic index fell 0.3% in January for a 3.6% decline over the past six months. That was in line with forecasts from economists polled by the Wall Street Journal.

Read: U.S. January leading economic index falls for 10th straight month

The tech-heavy Nasdaq, which is outperforming the Dow and S&P 500 this week, has jumped 12.4% so far this year, according to FactSet data, at last check. That compares with a year-to-date rise of 6.1% for the S&P 500.

The Dow and S&P 500 were on track for modest weekly losses after market-based chances of a rise in the Fed’s benchmark rate in June have risen substantially this week. The probability of an in increase in the fed funds rate in June was seen as negligible as recently as earlier this month, according to trading in Fed funds futures.

Economists at Bank of America and Goldman Sachs have adjusted their forecasts to call for additional 25 basis-point hikes in March, May and June. That would bring the Fed’s terminal rate to a range of between 5.25% and 5.5%.

Richmond Fed President Tom Barkin said Friday that he likes 25-basis point moves because it gives the central bank flexibility, according to media reports on his conversation with reporters after a speech in Northern Virginia.

Read: Fed’s Barkin backs sticking with 25-basis-point hikes in the future

The Fed probably won’t cut rates until it has “squeezed inflation out of the system for good,” said Christopher Smart, chief global strategist at Barings, in a phone interview Friday. “The second to last thing the Fed wants to do is to cause a deep recession,” he said. But “the last thing they want to do is to cut rates and then have inflation take off on them again.”

Meanwhile, Treasury yields have advanced this week. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note

was trading around 3.83% Friday afternoon, according to FactSet data, at last check.

Smart said he’s expecting “a couple more” interest rate hikes from the Fed and then for the central bank to hold rates at that level mostly likely through the end of 2023. That’s because inflation will probably come down “more slowly and more erratically over the next few months,” he explained.

While many market analysts have been anticipating a recession this year, expectations for one in first half of 2023 seem to be getting pushed further out. “We think if we get a recession, it will be relatively mild and relatively short,” said Smart.

U.S. stocks will be closed on Monday in observance of Washington’s Birthday on Monday.

Companies in focus
  • Deere & Co.

    shares jumped more than 7% after the maker of agriculture, construction and forestry equipment reported fiscal first-quarter profit and revenue that beat expectations by wide margins, with all segments seeing both higher shipment volumes and higher pricing.

  • DoorDash Inc.

    fell 7.6% after the food delivery merchant reported a much wider fourth-quarter net loss than expected, though the company beat most other Wall Street estimates, including for revenue, orders and its first-quarter forecast.

  • AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc.

    gained more than 2% after the TV network and streaming services company reported a fourth-quarter profit that was more than double what was expected.

  • AutoNation Inc.

    climbed 10.8% after the automotive retailer easily topped profit expectations or its latest quarter while benefiting from higher sales of and prices for new vehicles.

  • DraftKings Inc.

    shares jumped around 16% after the sports betting firm cleared $800 million in revenue in the fourth quarter, a new record just one quarter after topping $500 million for the first time, as the online-gambling company’s move into new states continues to boost sales.

—Steve Goldstein contributed to this report.

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