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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., June 13, 2022. Image Credit: Reuters

A broad-based selloff sent equities to their worst day in more than two years after hotter-than-expected inflation data fueled bets on a jumbo hike by the Federal Reserve next week. Treasury yields surged and the dollar gained.

Across-the-board selling sent the S&P 500 down more than 4%, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 losses surpassed 5% as yield-sensitive stocks took the biggest hit. Both benchmarks suffered their worst one-day routs since 2020. Swaps traders are now fully pricing in a rate increase of three-quarters of a percentage point, with wagers rising for a similar move in November and policy rates ultimately reaching around 4.3% early in 2023.

The two-year Treasury yield, the most sensitive to policy changes, jumped as much as 22 basis points, pushing it more than 30 basis points above the 10-year rate and deepening an inversion in what is generally a recession warning.

8.3% inflation

From a year earlier, prices climbed 8.3%, a slight deceleration but still more than the median estimate of 8.1%. So-called core CPI, which strips out the more volatile food and energy components, also topped forecasts.

The August consumer price index report showed a higher-than-expected reading for inflation. Despite falling petrol prices, headline inflation rose 0.1% month over month. Core inflation rose 0.6% month over month. 

"Overall, today was a surprising day against the trend of what had appeared to be some moderation across most indicators of growth and pricing pressure, so the Fed's job is clearly not finished," Rick Rieder, the chief investment officer of global fixed income at BlackRock Inc., the world's biggest asset manager, wrote. "We think the Fed will pause the rate hiking cycle potentially at year-end, but maybe now the central bank will have to wait a bit longer to do that after having reached a restrictive policy stance."

The hotter-than-expected August inflation report hurt investor optimism for cooling prices and a less aggressive Federal Reserve.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 1,276.37 points, or 3.94%, to close at 31,104.97. The S&P 500 dropped 4.32% to 3,932.69, and the Nasdaq Composite sank 5.16% to end the day at 11,633.57.

Just five stocks in the S&P 500 finished in positive territory. Tech stocks were hit particularly hard, with Facebook-parent Meta skidding 9.4% and chip giant Nvidia shedding 9.5%.

The report is one of the last the Fed will see ahead of their Sept. 20-21 meeting, where the central bank is expected to deliver its third consecutive 0.75 percentage point interest rate hike to tamp down inflation. The unexpectedly high August report could lead the Fed to continue its aggressive hikes longer than some investors anticipated.

The moves comes after four straight positive sessions for U.S. stocks, which were bolstered in part by the belief of many investors that inflation had already peaked.