US stocks closed with a modest bounce on Friday but still suffered the biggest weekly percentage decline in months as investors wrestled with the growing likelihood of a recession as global central banks tried to stamp out inflation.
Stubbornly high inflation has unnerved investors this year as the US Federal Reserve and most major central banks have begun to pivot from easy monetary policies to tightening measures which will slow the economy, possibly causing a recession, and potentially dent corporate earnings.
Each of the three major Wall Street indexes fell the third week in a row. The benchmark S&P 500 index suffered its biggest weekly percentage drop since January.
“Right now you are going to see a lot of volatility and it is primarily going to be because of the fact the Fed is going to be front-end loading all these rates hikes and just trying to gauge the inflation picture and it is very clouded right now,” said Megan Horneman, director of portfolio strategy at Verdence Capital Advisors in Hunt Valley, Maryland.
“Just expect volatility, it is here to stay, it is going to be here until we get a little bit more clarity on have we really reached peak inflation.” According to preliminary data, the S&P 500 gained 7.07 points, or 0.19 per cent, to end at 3,673.84 points, while the Nasdaq Composite gained 149.11 points, or 1.39 per cent, to 10,795.21. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 47.13 points, or 0.16 per cent, to 29,879.94.
The benchmark S&P index has slumped about 23 per cent year-to-date and recently confirmed a bear market began on Jan. 3. The Dow Industrials was on the cusp of confirming its own bear market.
Stocks rallied on Wednesday after the Fed raised its key rate by 75 basis points, the biggest hike in nearly three decades, while the Bank of England and the Swiss National Bank also raised borrowing costs.
On Friday, Fed Chair Jerome Powell once again stressed the central bank’s focus on bringing back inflation to its 2 per cent target while speaking at a conference.
Economic data on Friday showed production at US factories fell unexpectedly in the latest indication economic activity was on the wane.
Gains were led by the communication services consumer discretionary sectors, which have been among the worst performing of the 11 major groups on the year.
In contrast, energy, the year’s best performing sector, fell sharply and was on pace for its biggest weekly percentage drop since March 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic plunge, on concerns a slowing global economy could sap demand for crude oil.
Also contributing to choppy trading was the expiration of monthly and quarterly options contracts ahead of the Juneteenth market holiday on Monday.