Stocks plunged Friday.
The Dow fell about 980 points, or 2.8%, following comments about likely aggressive interest rate hikes from Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell. A poor earnings outlook from Dow component Verizon didn’t help matters. All 30 stocks in the Dow ended the day lower, led by Verizon (VZ), which fell more than 5.5%, and Caterpillar (CAT), which plunged 6.5%. Dow component American Express (AXP) was off nearly 3% in response to its latest earnings. Stocks finished near their lows of the day. The Dow was down as much as 1,019 points heading into the close.
The S&P 500 and Nasdaq each dropped more than 2.5%, too. All three indexes were in the red for the week, with the Nasdaq sliding almost 4% in the past five days. The Dow has now fallen for four straight weeks while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq have declined for the past three weeks. Powell confirmed what many bond investors already suspected…that a half-point interest rate hike is “on the table” for the Fed’s next meeting in May. The yield on the 10-year Treasury bond has spiked to 2.9% in recent days…the highest level since December 2018.
Stock traders seem to be worried that even more aggressive rate hikes are in the cards beyond May. Federal funds futures on the CME are indicating that the market is now pricing in a more than 90% chance of a three-quarter percentage point hike at the June meeting. That would bring rates, which were at zero just two months ago, to 1.5%. Rates haven’t been raised that sharply since November 1994.