The Dow turned lower and stocks struggled for direction Wednesday ahead of minutes of the early May Federal Reserve meeting to help gauge the course of its interest-rate policy.
How are stocks trading?
On Tuesday, the Dow industrials DJIA, -0.18% rose 0.2% to 31,928.62, its third straight gain. The S&P 500 SPX, 0.12% fell 0.8% to 3,941.48, snapping two straight days of gains, while the Nasdaq Composite COMP, 0.51% slumped 2.4% to 11,264.45, its lowest close since Nov. 3, 2020.
What’s driving the markets?
Investors are concerned that economic growth will slow quickly amid tighter monetary conditions, with the war in Ukraine and China’s COVID lockdowns worsening the outlook.
U.S. benchmark indexes have suffered this month after grim earnings outlooks from several major retailers. More reports this week could help inform how other companies are handling inflationary pressures. Snowflake SNOW, 0.62% and Nvidia NVDA, 3.06% are set to post quarterly reports after the bell Wednesday. Costco COST, -0.50% will report on Thursday. They might also help stocks find a footing.
“I think the market has put in a bottom,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities, by phone.
The S&P 500’s recent testing of the 3,850 level, but then finding higher ground, helped inform his rationale. Cardillo also said investors have been “through the discounting process of high inflation,” aggressive tightening of financial conditions by the Fed and the probability of a recession.
Markets may pivot on clues to future monetary policy decisions, when the Fed minutes from the latest monetary policy meeting are released at 2 p.m. Eastern Time.
While Cardillo doesn’t expect any “fireworks,” he does expect the Fed to raise rates aggressively over the next three policy meetings, but then to re-evaluate its stance.
“While the hunt for any mention of a possible 75bps rate hike may be futile, the base case stays at a series of 50bps rate hikes to follow,” said a team of strategists at Saxo Bank. “But investors are also increasingly parsing Fed talk to look for signs of stagflation or economic slowdown and that really is driving the market sentiment for now.”
Still, the minutes “are a month old and the markets have a lot of time change in the meantime, and it won’t really affect anything going forward,” said Randy Frederick, managing director of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab.
Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has laid plans for the central bank to boost the benchmark interest rate by half-a-percentage point at the next two FOMC meetings in June and July, bringing it to near 2% by August.
In economic data on Wednesday, orders at U.S. factories for long-lasting goods such as machinery and electronics rose a 0.4% in April, signaling the economy was still growing at a steady pace in the early spring. Economists polled by the Wall Street Journal had forecast a 0.7% increase.
Which companies are in focus?
How are other assets trading?
—-Barbara Kollmeyer contributed reporting to this article.