U.S. stocks ended sharply lower on Friday, tumbling to two-month lows as a warning of impending global slowdown from FedEx hastened investors’ flight to safety at the conclusion of a tumultuous week. The TSX also ended the week lower, with the industrials, technology, health care and energy sectors taking the biggest hit. The Canadian dollar weakened to its lowest level in nearly two years.
All three major U.S. stock indexes slid to levels not touched since mid-July, with the S&P 500 closing below 3,900, a closely watched support level.
Staggering past the finish line of a week rattled by inflation concerns, looming interest rate hikes and ominous economic warning signs, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq suffered their worst weekly percentage plunges since June.
“It’s been a tough week. It feels like Halloween came early,” said David Carter, managing director at JPMorgan in New York. “We are facing in this toxic brew of high inflation, high interest rates and low growth, which isn’t good for stock or bond markets.”
Risk-off sentiment went from simmer to boil in the wake of FedEx Corp’s withdrawal of its earnings forecast late Thursday, citing signs of dampening global demand.
FedEx’s move followed remarks from the World Bank and the IMF, both of which warned of an impending worldwide economic slowdown.
A deluge of mixed economic data, dominated by a hotter-than-expected inflation report (CPI), cemented an interest rate hike of at least 75 basis points at the conclusion of the Fed’s monetary policy meeting next week.
“While the market is expecting a big bump in the Fed’s rates next week, there is tremendous uncertainty and concern about future rate increases,” Carter added. “The Fed is doing what it needs to do. And after some pain, markets and the economy will heal themselves.”
Financial markets have priced in a 18% likelihood of a super-sized, 100 basis point increase to the Fed funds target rate on Wednesday, according to CME’s FedWatch tool..
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 139.4 points, or 0.45%, to 30,822.42, the S&P 500 lost 28.02 points, or 0.72%, to 3,873.33 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 103.95 points, or 0.9%, to 11,448.40.
Nine of the 11 major sectors of the S&P 500 ended in negative territory, with energy and industrials suffering the sharpest percentage drops.
Dow Transports, viewed as a barometer of economic health, plummeted 5.1%.
That drop was led by FedEx shares tanking by 21.4%, the biggest drop in the S&P 500.
Peers United Parcel Service and XPO Logistics slid 4.5% and 4.7%, respectively, while Amazon.com Inc slipped 2.1%.
The session also marked the monthly options expiry, which occurs on the third Friday of every month. Options-hedging activity has amplified market moves this year, contributing to heightened volatility.
The CBOE Market Volatility index, often called “the fear index,” touched a two-month high, breezing past a level associated with heightened investor anxiety.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 3.04-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.24-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
The S&P 500 posted no new 52-week highs and 56 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 21 new highs and 387 new lows. Volume on U.S. exchanges was 16.92 billion shares, compared with the 10.72 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.
By late afternoon, the Canadian dollar was trading 0.3% lower at 1.3270 per U.S. dollar, or 75.36 U.S. cents, after touching its weakest since November 2020 at 1.3307. For the week, the loonie was down 1.8%, its biggest weekly decline since June.
It follows hotter-than-expected U.S. inflation data on Tuesday that spooked financial markets globally and pushed the U.S. dollar sharply higher against a basket of major currencies.
“The dollar is an unstoppable juggernaut right now, with higher-than-expected inflation and an ever-more-hawkish Federal Reserve sucking capital into the United States and inflicting damage on the rest of the world economy,” said Karl Schamotta, chief market strategist at Corpay.
Canada is a major exporter of commodities, including oil, so the loonie tends to be particularly sensitive to the global economic outlook.
In a possible signal that investors expect a recession, the inversion of Canada’s yield curve grew larger.
The 10-year yield fell 68 basis points below the 2-year yield after the latter touched its highest intraday level since December 2007 at 3.870%.
Canada’s inflation data for August is due next Tuesday, with all eyes on measures of underlying price pressures.
“Market participants, burnt by Tuesday’s U.S. (data)surprise ... are bracing themselves for a range of outcomes,” Schamotta said.
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE ended down 0.9% at 19,385.88, its lowest closing level since Sept. 7, including declines for technology, energy and financial shares.
For the week, the Canadian index lost 2%.
Reuters, Globe staff
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