Sunday, June 23, 2024

Markets remain jumbled: Stocks mixed, oil down, yields up

by BIZ Magazine

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks on Wall Street are mixed Monday as waves of market-moving forces crash into each other and keep trading jumbled, from war in Ukraine to an upcoming Federal Reserve meeting on interest rates

The S&P 500 was 0.4% higher after flipping from an earlier loss in morning trading, as the yield on the 10-year Treasury touched its highest level since the summer of 2019. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 254 points, or 0.8%, at 33,198, as of 10:03 a.m. Eastern time, and the Nasdaq composite was 0.1% lower.

Elsewhere around the world, markets pulled in opposing directions. Stocks climbed in Europe, while stocks fell sharply in Hong Kong with oil prices after the neighboring city of Shenzhen was ordered into a shutdown to combat China’s worst COVID-19 outbreak in two years.

Markets have careened in recent weeks amid uncertainty about whether the economy may be heading for a toxic combination of stagnating growth and persistently high inflation. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused prices to surge for oil, wheat and other commodities produced in the region. That in turn has led to sharp day-to-day and hour-to-hour reversals across markets.

On Monday, a fourth round of talks was expected between Ukrainian and Russian officials to discuss getting food, medicine and desperately needed supplies to cities and towns under fire, among other issues.

Investors were already uneasy before the war began because central banks around the world are preparing to shut off the stimulus they pumped into the global economy after the pandemic first struck. The Federal Reserve’s policymaking committee is meeting this week, for example.

The wide expectation is that it will raise its key short-term interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point on Wednesday. It would be the first increase since 2018, and it would pull the federal funds rate off its record low of nearly zero.

“Finally, the Fed gets moving,” economists at BofA Global Research wrote in a report. Besides raising short-term rates, the Fed may also give more details about how it will put into reverse the massive bond-buying program it ran during the pandemic to keep long-term rates low, the economists wrote. The central bank bought trillions of dollars of bonds to shower the economy with cash.

The Fed’s moves this week are likely to be the first in a long march to raise interest rates and slow the economy enough to stamp out the highest inflation to hit the United States in 40 years.

The Fed faces twin dangers, though. If it raises rates too quickly or too high, it would cause a recession. If it’s too passive, high inflation could become more permanent.

The war in Ukraine makes the balancing act even more difficult. It’s pushing inflation higher by raising prices for everything from nickel to natural gas. And it’s threatening to pull down on economic growth. That’s why the S&P 500 is coming off its fourth weekly loss in the last five, while crude oil prices are up roughly 38% for 2022 so far.

Economists at Goldman Sachs say there’s a roughly 20% to 35% probability of a U.S. recession in the coming year. Strategists at the bank cut their year-end target for the S&P 500 by 4% to 4,700 from 4,900, partially because of lower expectations for corporate profits. That, though, would still be a climb from the 4,204.31 level where it ended last week.

Oil prices fell more than 5% Monday as coronavirus worries came back to the fore. A barrel of U.S. oil slid 6.8% to $102.08. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 6.5% to $105.34.

Spreading virus outbreaks in China are compounding worries over supply chain disruptions both from the pandemic and from the war.

A vital manufacturing and technology hub of 17.5 million people, Shenzhen is home to some of China’s most prominent companies, including telecom equipment maker Huawei Technologies Ltd., electric car brand BYD Auto, Ping An Insurance Co. and Tencent Holding, operator of the popular WeChat message service.

Foxconn, supplier to Apple and other electronics brands, said it had suspended factory lines in Shenzhen due to the shutdown. In a notice to Taiwan’s stock exchange, its listed company Hon Hai Precision Industry, the world’s largest contract manufacturing company, said it did not expect the suspension to have a major impact on its business.

The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong fell 5%, with the exchange’s tech index dropped 11%. Stocks in Shanghai lost 2.6%.

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