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Dow falls sharply as Wall Street worries about drastic action by the Fed

The Dow (INDU) fell 600 points or 1.8%, and recovered slightly after morning trading when it fell by more than 800 points. Nasdaq fell 3.4 percent.

The broader S&P 500 fell 2.6 percent. This index is now more than 20% below its record high level in January, and places stocks in the bear market.

Fears of inflation and recession had eased somewhat at the end of May, and equities receded somewhat. But Friday’s miserable consumer price index report showed that US inflation was significantly higher than economists had expected last month, which could make the Federal Reserve̵[ads1]7;s efforts to control inflation more difficult.

After raising interest rates by half a point in May – an action the Fed had not taken since 2000 – Chairman Jerome Powell promised more of the same until the central bank was pleased that inflation was under control. At that point, the Fed would resume standard gains in the quarter, he said.

But after May’s hotter-than-expected inflation report, Wall Street is increasingly demanding tougher action from the Fed to keep prices under control. Jefferies joined Barclays on Monday to predict that the Federal Reserve would raise interest rates by three quarters of a percentage point, an action the Fed has not taken since 1994.

“After holding its breath for almost a week and waiting for the US CPI report for May, investors breathed a sigh of relief as inflation warmed more than expected,” said Sam Stovall, CFRA investment strategist, in a note to clients Monday morning.

Stovall said that the risk of larger increases pulls the markets down on Monday.

Investors fear two outcomes, none of them good: Higher interest rates mean greater borrowing costs for companies, which can erode their bottom lines. And overly zealous actions by the Fed could inadvertently plunge the US economy into a recession, especially if businesses begin to lay off workers and the red-hot housing market crumbles.

There are no signs that the job and housing markets are in danger of collapsing, even though both are cooling somewhat.

In an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on Sunday, former central bank governor Ben Bernanke said that a US recession is still possible. But Bernanke said he believed Powell and the Fed could achieve a so-called soft landing, the elusive result in which the central bank can cool the economy to control inflation without slowing it so much that it goes into a recession.

“Economists are very bad at predicting recessions, but I think the Fed has a decent chance – a reasonable chance – of achieving what Powell calls a ‘soft-ish landing,’ either no recession or a very mild recession to get inflation. down.” in Bernanke.

Analysts seemed to be moving beyond a “buy dip” mentality on Monday, signaling that they do not see markets recovering quickly.

“Valuations are not much cheaper given rising interest rates and weaker earnings prospects, in our view,” BlackRock strategists wrote on Monday. “A higher path for key interest rates justifies lower share prices. In addition, margin pressure is a risk to earnings.”

BlackRock will remain neutral on equities for the next six to 12 months, strategists said.

Bears and oxen

If the S&P 500 closes in a bear market, the bull run that started on March 23, 2020 will have come to an end. But due to the difficult way these things are measured, the bear market will have started on January 3, when the S&P 500 reached its all-time high.

This would mean that the last beef market lasted for over 21 months – the shortest on record, according to Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices. Over the last century, beef markets have been on average for around 60 months.

The shortest beef market will have followed the shortest bear market, one that lasted over a month – from February 19 to March 23, 2020. Bear markets historically last an average of 19 months, according to Silverblatt.

Shares fell briefly into a bear market on May 20, although a rally late in the day saved the market from closing below this threshold for the first time since the early days of the pandemic.

Technology-heavy Nasdaq has been in a bear market for a while and is now 32% below the all-time high set in November 2021. Dow is still some distance away from a bear market. It has fallen 15% from the peak time it reached on the last day of 2021.

Nicole Goodkind from CNN Business contributed to this report

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