The Week's Top Stories is a guided tour through the biggest market stories of the week, from winning stocks to brutal dips to the facts and forecasts generating buzz on Wall Street.
Wall Street slipped into bear market territory Monday after weeks of brutal sell-offs dragged down stock prices. What does this mean exactly? Technically, it means the major indices are down at least 20 percent from their recent highs. But more importantly, bear markets often strike around the same time as recessions, which bring a much broader economic impact than a drop in financial markets. In the last week, we've seen a number of high-profile predictors signaling whether or not the U.S. economy is headed for a recession, with some speculating that it might already be in one. Yet nailing down precisely when a recession begins is tricky, because the official definition is pretty flexible. At the moment, the job market remains strong, but retail sales are beginning to fall, and inflation remains at a 4o-year high.
Check out Cheddar's explainer on how recessions are determined.
FED RATE HIKE
The Federal Reserve waded into this muck Wednesday with a higher-than-forecast rate hike of 75 basis points. The central bank had previously signaled that it was considering a 50 basis point hike (or half a percentage point) to its benchmark rate, but last week's red-hot consumer price index appeared to have changed officials' minds. Fed Chair Jerome Powell's speech following the announcement made it clear that inflation is still coming in way too high and continues to surprise the embattled central bank. Markets briefly rebounded on the news of the aggressive rate increase but continued their slide Thursday.
Sliding into the weekend still way down: markets drifted higher on Friday after a very rough week.
Once upon a time, crypto-enthusiasts told themselves that Bitcoin and other digital currencies/assets were a hedge against inflation and the booms and busts of financial markets. As it turns out, its fortunes are directly tied to Wall Street. The crypto market plunged along with the rest of the stock market this week, dropping below a total market cap of $1 trillion, down from $3 trillion last November. Bitcoin itself plummeted to around $20,000 per coin, which is its lowest price since late 2020, and Ethereum fell to around $1,100. Fueling the fire was the breakdown of yet another decentralized finance company. The cryptocurrency lender Celsius froze withdrawals and transfers earlier this week due to liquidity issues and is now teetering on the edge of insolvency. The company is scrambling to right the ship, but bankruptcy may be in the cards, which could further destabilize the crypto market. Trouble at Coinbase also shook the market as it announced significant layoffs — 18 percent of the company — with no heads-up to affected employees. CEO Brian Armstrong blamed deteriorating market conditions, a need to manage costs, and the team's decision to grow too quickly over the last year.
Revlon filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Wednesday night. The cosmetics giant nearly went bankrupt earlier in the pandemic due to shutdown measures. Now it's facing severe supply chain issues and is unable to meet almost a third of all customer demand. Add in a high debt load, and it added up to an untenable situation for the company. The bankruptcy proceedings will help the company restructure its debt so that it can better weather the challenging macroeconomic conditions. This is the first major retailer to take this path since the retail sector got hit with a wave of bankruptcies in 2020.