By Damian J. Troise and Stan Choe
Stocks fell on Wall Street Monday, giving back some of their huge gains made last week on hopes the worst of the nation’s inflation may finally have passed.
The S&P 500 fell 0.9%, or 35.68 points, to 3,957.25 after drifting between gains and losses several times through the day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.6%, or 211.16, to 33,536.70, and the Nasdaq composite fell 1.1%, or 127.11, to 11,196.22.
The losses follow Wall Street’s best week since June, when the S&P 500 surged 5.9% after encouraging data on inflation sparked speculation the Federal Reserve may ease up on its fusillade of interest-rate hikes meant to get prices under control. Such rate hikes have raised worries about a possible recession, while also dragging down prices for stocks, bonds and cryptocurrencies.
Some analysts have called Wall Street’s recent rally overdone, including a 5.5% surge for the S&P 500 on Thursday alone, saying one report does not mean the coast is clear, even if it was encouraging. Some officials at the Federal Reserve have also urged caution, with Fed Governor Christopher Waller saying the better-than-expected reading on inflation for October “was just one data point” and that “everybody should just take a deep breath.”
Such warnings weighed on stocks Monday, as did a rise in Treasury yields. But the market also got a brief boost after Fed Vice Chair Lael Brainard gave comments that investors took as a hint that the steepest of the Fed’s rate hikes may have passed.
“The inflation data was reassuring, preliminarily,” she said. “It will probably be appropriate, soon, to move to a slower pace of rate increases.”
In each of its last four meetings, the Fed has hiked its key overnight rate by a big 0.75 percentage points, which is triple the usual amount. Bets have increased since last week’s inflation report that the Fed’s next move will be an increase of only 0.50 percentage points. While that’s still a big increase relative to history, investors are starving for any indication the Fed may ease up on its rate hikes.
Even before last week's report on inflation, Fed Chair Jerome Powell already said such a dial down in the size of rate hikes may be imminent. But he also said the Fed nevertheless could still ultimately take rates higher than earlier expected, and that it may hold rates at that high level a while to make sure inflation stays under control.
Fed officials have been reiterating how the Fed's campaign against high inflation still looks to be a long one.
“Quit paying attention to the pace and start paying attention to where the endpoint is going to be," Waller said. "Until we get inflation down, that endpoint is still a ways out there.”
On Wall Street, Hasbro fell 9.9% for the largest loss in the S&P 500 index. Analysts in a BofA Global Research report raised concerns the company may be overproducing cards for its "Magic: The Gathering" game, threatening to undercut a lucrative business.
On the winning side was Moderna, which climbed 4.6% after reporting encouraging data on its bivalent vaccine targeting COVID-19.
Bond yields rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which helps set mortgage rates, rose to 3.87% from 3.81% late Thursday. Bond markets were closed Friday for Veterans Day.
Crypto-related stocks kept whipsawing following the implosion last week of FTX, a major crypto trading exchange. Coinbase, another crypto exchange platform, fell 7.4%.
Several economic reports due this week could offer more clues about where inflation is heading.
On Tuesday, the government will issue its October report on prices at the wholesale level. Economists say inflation there likely slowed to 8.3% from September’s 8.5% rate for year-over-year price changes.
On Wednesday, markets will see how resilient U.S. households have been in their spending when the government gives its latest monthly update on sales at retailers.
Economists say retail sales likely grew 0.9% in October from a month earlier, a much stronger showing than September's flat performance. The data, though, does not take inflation into account and could be a reflection of nothing more than higher prices being charged at the register.
Retailers could offer more color on that, with a long line of them scheduled to say this week how much profit they earned during the summer.
Home Depot and Walmart report earnings on Tuesday. Target reports its results on Wednesday, and Macy's reports results on Thursday.
AP Business Writers Yuri Kageyama and Matt Ott contributed to this report.