By DAMIAN J. TROISE
AP Business Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street is falling sharply Thursday, giving back its gains from the last two days, after better-than-expected data on the economy fueled worries about higher interest rates.
Usually good news on the economy would be good for markets, particularly when worries about a potential recession are high. But the reports showing employers laid off fewer workers than expected last week and that the economy grew more during the third quarter than expected, suggested the Federal Reserve may indeed need to crank rates higher and hold them there for longer to kill off inflation, as it’s suggested.
The S&P 500 fell 2.5% as of 12:37 p.m. Eastern and slipped back into the red for the week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 636 points, or 1.9%, to 32,880 and the Nasdaq fell 3.3%.
Technology companies had some of the biggest losses. Chipmaker Micron Technology fell 5% after giving investors a weak financial forecast as it faces a drop in demand. The tech sector has also been among the hardest hit from higher interest rates, which make already high-priced tech stocks seem too pricey.
Used car seller CarMax sank 6.6% after reporting results for its latest quarter that came in far below what analysts were expecting. Car dealers are among the many retailers feeling the squeeze from inflation and consumers shifting spending to cope with high prices.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which influences mortgage rates, held steady at 3.67% from late Wednesday. The yield on the two-year Treasury held steady at 4.22%.
Trading had been volatile throughout the week as investors grapple with the Fed’s resolve to remain aggressive in its fight against inflation, along with the risk of a potential recession in 2023.
The latest update from the government shows that the U.S. economy grew at an unexpectedly strong 3.2% annual pace from July through September. The growth during the third quarter follows a contraction during the first half of the year.
The solid economic update follows a surprisingly strong consumer confidence report on Wednesday. The overall updates remain mixed, though. Last week, the government reported that retail sales fell in November as inflation squeezed consumers. Inflation has been easing, at a relatively slow pace and not enough to convince the Fed to ease off the brakes in its policy to slow the economy.
Investors will get another update on consumer spending and inflation Friday when the government releases the personal consumption expenditure price index for November. The report is monitored by the Fed as a barometer of inflation. Economists expect the report to show that inflation continued cooling in November.
The fight against inflation has prompted the Fed to raise its key lending rate, the federal funds rate, to a range of 4.25% to 4.5%, the highest level in 15 years. Fed policymakers forecast that the rate will reach a range of 5% to 5.25% by the end of 2023. Their forecast doesn’t call for a rate cut before 2024.
Elaine Kurtenbach and Matt Ott contributed to this report.
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