Wall Street plunges as recession fears grow

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U.S. stock indexes closed sharply lower on Thursday in a broad sell-off as recession fears grew following moves by central banks around the globe to stamp out rising inflation after the Federal Reserve’s largest rate hike since 1994.

The benchmark S&P 500 (.SPX) suffered its sixth decline in seven sessions. Stocks had rallied on Wednesday as the Fed delivered an aggressive 75 basis point rate hike, as expected, to help the index snap its longest daily losing streak since early January.

But rate hikes by Switzerland and Britain on Thursday reignited fears that attempts by central banks to curb inflation could lead to sharply slower growth worldwide or a recession.

“That is what people reassessing today – what is the probability of a potential recession and will corporate profits come in where analysts estimates are or will those get taken down,” said Tom Hainlin, global investment strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management’s Ascent Private Wealth Group in Minneapolis.

“The Swiss came out and surprised everybody today and said we are less worried about the strength of our currency and more worried about inflation.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI) fell 741.46 points, or 2.42%, to 29,927.07, the S&P 500 (.SPX) lost 123.22 points, or 3.25%, to 3,666.77 and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) dropped 453.06 points, or 4.08%, to 10,646.10.

Each of the 11 major S&P sectors were lower, although the defensive consumer staples (.SPLRCS) was outperforming the broader market as names like WalMart (WMT.N), General Mills (GIS.N) and Procter & Gamble (PG.N) were among the few advancers as only 14 S&P 500 components finished higher for the session.

Growth stocks were hit hard with the S&P growth index (.IGX) down 3.75% while the Nasdaq Composite saw its fifth decline of 4% or more since the start of May.

Hopes the Fed could engineer a soft economic landing are fading and Wells Fargo analysts now see a greater than 50% chance of a recession. Other banks that have warned of rising recession risks include Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley.

The benchmark index (.SPX) has slumped about 23% year-to-date and recently confirmed a bear market began on Jan. 3, while the Dow Industrials was on the cusp of confirming its own bear market.

The CBOE volatility index (.VIX), also known as Wall Street’s fear gauge, rose to slightly below the one-month high of 35.05 touched earlier this week. Many analysts are looking for the VIX to reach around 40 as one of the signals that selling pressure may be reaching its apex.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 13.98 billion shares, compared with the 12.16 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by a 7.58-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 4.48-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted one new 52-week high and 99 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded seven new highs and 779 new lows.

SOURCE: REUTERS

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