The week started with a brutal stock market session as major benchmarks finished the day in deep red. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq logged their worst day since Feb 8 while the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 400 points its biggest fall since Mar 1, in Monday trading.
In fact, the steep decline eroded all the gains made this year from the Dow Jones and sent the index into red from a year-to-date look.
The downswing has mainly been blamed on the technology selloff triggered by Facebook’s (FB – Free Report) data breach news. A political consultancy that worked on U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign gained access to data on 50 million Facebook profiles without their authorization. Shares of FB tumbled 6.8% on the day, marking their biggest one-day drop since Mar 26, 2014. The massive decline pushed the other stocks in the FANG group and the broad sector lower.
Added to the concern is the Federal Reserve’s two-day meeting, which ends on Wednesday, that is being headed by the new chairman Jerome Powell. The market is predicting that the Fed will raise interest rates for the fifth time since Dec 2015. Per the latest CME Group’s FedWatch tool, the odds for a March rate hike by 25 bps are greater than 90%.
While this is well absorbed by the stock market, Trump’s spending spree could compel the Fed to move for speedy rates hike. This is because the massive $1.5 trillion tax cut and a bipartisan $300 billion spending plan could overheat the robust labor market, flaring up inflation. This would prompt the Fed to increase its rate hike projections from three to four for this year. Last month, Powell in its first testimony to Congress revived fears of more interest rate increases this year, leading to a bloodbath in the stock market.
Powell had showed enough confidence in the economic and inflation outlook, signaling that the Fed could accelerate its pace of monetary tightening with four interest rate hikes this year rather than the three penciled in. Majority of major Wall Street firms, including Barclays, JP Morgan (JPM – Free Report), Goldman Sachs (GS – Free Report) and UBS, are also expecting the Fed to call four increases in interest rates this year. As such, investors are keenly awaiting the Fed’s guidance on the future rate trajectory.