The week on Wall St.
A hotter-than-expected inflation report sent stocks sharply lower last week as investors faced the prospect of more aggressive interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve for perhaps a longer period.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 4.13%, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 lost 4.77%. The Nasdaq Composite index dropped 5.48% for the week. The MSCI EAFE index, which tracks developed overseas stock markets, dipped 1.78%.1,2,3
Inflation Deflates Markets
Stocks suffered their worst day in more than two years last Tuesday as markets were caught off-guard by a higher-than-anticipated August inflation report.
Markets expected the August report to show a substantial cooling of inflation, potentially allowing the Fed to ease up on interest rate hikes. Instead, the elevated inflation number not only undercut those easing hopes but raised the possibility of a more significant rate hike. On Tuesday, traders assigned a 28% probability of a 100 basis point hike, from a 0% chance just the day before. Price action remained choppy for the remainder of the week, closing the week with additional losses as a global package-delivery company warned of a worldwide recession.4
August CPI Disappoints
August’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 8.3% from a year ago, showing a continued deceleration in price increases (July’s CPI was 8.5%, and June’s was 9.1%). Despite moderating price increases, traders were disappointed, given the general expectation of a more substantial slowdown in inflation.5
Core inflation (excluding food and energy) was particularly alarming to investors, which jumped 6.3% year-over-year. That number was well above the 5.9% rate from June and July. From the market’s perspective, sufficient inflationary pressures exist for the Fed to maintain its hawkish interest rate policy for possibly longer than investors had hoped.6
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