Stocks slide to lowest since Dec. 2020 amid renewed recession concerns

US stocks sank Thursday as investors weighed the potential economic costs of the Federal Reserve’s ongoing fight with inflation.

The S&P 500 fell by 3.25% to 3,666.77, its lowest level since Dec. 2020. It also erased gains after rising 1.5% on Wednesday. The Nasdaq Composite plunged by more than 4%, bringing the index down by more than 30% for the year-to-date. The Dow sank by 741 points, or 2.4%, to close below 30,000 for the first time since January 2021.

Stocks, which initially moved to the upside following Fed’s first 75 basis point rate hike since 1994 on Wednesday, turned around as traders assessed the potential that the central bank’s moves to bring down inflation would trigger a deeper downturn in economic activity.

The Federal Open Market Committee’s (FOMC) Summary of Economic Projections (SEP) on Thursday showed the committee itself now sees a less rosy economy ahead as its continues to hike interest rates. The FOMC now anticipates the unemployment rate will in at 3.7% by the end of this year (versus the 3.5% rate seen in March), and that real gross domestic product will rise just 1.7% (versus the 2.8% increase seen previously) . The Fed also raised its forecast for the rate of core inflation at year-end and its expectation for where the Fed funds rate would end 2022.

The lowered growth outlook coupled with a more aggressive path on interest rate hikes ahead appeared to vindicate some pundit’s concerns that the Fed’s window to achieve a “soft landing” had nearly or already passed. Fed Chair Jerome Powell suggested Wednesday that a 50 or 75 basis point interest rate hike seemed most like at the central bank’s next meeting in July. While the Fed is still forecasting GDP growth will end each of 2022, 2023 and 2024 in positive territory, some suggested this may be overly optimistic.

“The Summary of Economic Projections (SEP) and Chair Powell’s presser highlighted a Committee that sees an increasingly narrow path to a soft landing, while still maintaining that as a baseline,” Matthew Luzzetti, chief US economist at Deutsche Bank, wrote in a note . “The statement removed the reference to maintaining a strong market as control and the SEP anticipates under that the unemployment rate will eventually rise by about half a percentage point. signaled at [Wednesday’s] meeting and that this tightening will trigger a recession in 2023 that leads to more material rise in the unemployment rate.”

Powell, for his part, said Wednesday that the Fed was not looking for a recession to achieve the central bank’s goals of bringing down inflation. However, whether such an outcome is ultimately avoidable as a byproduct of the Fed’s moves remains a question for markets, and one that will likely keep volatility at play, some strategists said.

“‘Clear and convincing’ evidence of moderating inflation has yet to materialize … Further volatility is likely with the Fed firmly data dependent,” Julian Emanuel, senior managing director at Evercore, said in a note. “Ideally, this will include equities reflecting signs of capitulation, the groundwork for ‘a’ bottom is being laid.”

“Until further necessary and sufficient signs (gasoline price turn and VIX [spikes above 40] on heavy stock volume) of ‘a’ bottom, not necessarily ‘the’ bottom appear, we maintain balanced exposure,” he added.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 14: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on June 14, 2022 in New York City.  The Dow was up in the morning trading following a drop on Monday of over 800 points, which felt the market into bear territory as fears of a possible recession loom.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JUNE 14: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on June 14, 2022 in New York City. The Dow was up in the morning trading following a drop on Monday of over 800 points, which felt the market into bear territory as fears of a possible recession loom. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

on the move

  • Twitter (TWTR) turned lower Thursday, erasing earlier Musk’s early gains after all afternoon-hands meeting Elon employees meeting. Musk reportedly discussed a goal of growing Twitter’s user base to 1 billion users, and suggested both subscription and advertising sales would be key to the company’s revenue growth going forward, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter. However, he also reportedly did not address directly during the meeting whether he had committed to completing his acquisition of the firm.

  • Robinhood (HOOD) shares fell anew on Thursday amid the recent drop in cryptocurrency prices, and Wall Street firms struck an increasingly pessimistic tone on the online trading platform’s stock on increased regulatory concerns. Atlantic Equities downgraded the stock to Underweight from Neutral on Wednesday and slashed its price target to the lowest on Wall Street at $5 a share, Bloomberg data showed.

  • Adobe (ADBE) shares declined before the company’s fiscal second quarter earnings report, which is set for release Thursday after market close. Consensus analysts see the software company delivering adjusted earnings of $3.31 per share on revenue of $4.35 billion.

This post will be updated.

Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

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