Stocks fell in late morning trading on Wall Street Wednesday, ahead of what traders expect will be another big interest rate increase from the Federal Reserve.
Markets will be watching closely to see what Fed Chair Jerome Powell says about the central bank’s outlook for how long rates will need to stay high to fight inflation.
The S&P 500 fell 0.5% as of 11:30 a.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 46 points, or 0.1%, to 32,608 and the Nasdaq fell 1%. Small company stocks lost more ground than the broader market. The Russell 2000 fell 1.3%.
The Fed is due to wrap up a two-day policy meeting later Wednesday that’s expected to produce the sixth interest rate increase of the year. The widespread expectation is for the Fed to push through another increase that’s triple the usual size, or three-quarters of a percentage point.
Investors will be listening closely to Powell’s comments as they try to determine what the central bank’s next move will be at its final meeting of the year in December. Opinions are currently split among investors as to whether the Fed will make another three-quarters point move or dial back to a half-point increase.
The path ahead for the Fed is closely tied to whether inflation cools from its hottest levels in four decades. Wall Street is concerned about inflation squeezing consumers and businesses while worries grow that the Fed could bring on a recession by slowing the economy too much.
“At the end of the day, the markets like certainty and they don’t have certainty from the Fed,” said Ryan Grabinski, managing director of investment strategy at Strategas, a Baird company.
Powell has warned that the central bank’s fight against inflation would likely come with “some pain.”
Wall Street has been closely watching the latest economic data, which is heavy on the employment market this week. It has remained strong despite inflation, which is being taken as a sign that the Fed will have to remain aggressive in its fight against high prices.
The latest jobs data from private payroll company ADP shows that companies added positions at a greater pace than expected in October. The report follows hotter-than-expected data from the government Tuesday on job openings.
“It’s sort of confirming that the Fed still has more work to do,” Grabinski said.
Investors will get more employment data with the government’s weekly unemployment report on Thursday and a broader monthly jobs report on Friday. They have been closely watching the latest round of company earnings to get a better sense of inflation’s impact on corporate profits and outlooks. It’s been a mixed bag so far.
Drugstore operator CVS rose 4.6% after raising its profit forecast following a strong third quarter. Casino operator Caesars Entertainment rose 5.8% after beating Wall Street’s third-quarter profit and revenue forecasts.
Short-term vacation rental marketplace Airbnb slipped 10.2% after warning investors that bookings growth will slow in the fourth quarter. Beauty products maker Estee Lauder fell 7.3% after slashing its profit forecast as COVID-19 lockdowns in China and inflation hurt business.
Bond yields remained near multiyear highs. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 4.04% from 4.05% late Tuesday. The yield on the two-year Treasury fell to 4.54% from 4.55% from late Tuesday.
Markets in Asia were mostly higher and markets in Europe were mostly lower.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.