Stocks fall about 1%, oil prices jump
US stocks fell and oil prices surged as concerns about rising energy prices, supply shortages and inflation rattled investors again.
The S&P 500 fell about 0.9% on Wednesday, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1%, or 357 points. The technology-focused Nasdaq Composite Index recently fell about 1%. Major U.S. stock indexes jumped on Tuesday as investors shrugged off concerns that inflation could push the domestic economy into a recession.
On Wednesday, however, some of that confidence faded after Brent, the international benchmark, rose again. Brent crude futures recently traded at $120.85 a barrel, up 4.7%.
Oil prices rose after Russia said on Tuesday that oil exports through a pipeline from Kazakhstan to the Black Sea could temporarily fall by about 1 million barrels a day, representing about 1% of global demand oil, citing storm damage. Repairs could take up to two months, Russian officials said.
“Things will remain very sensitive to events unfolding in Ukraine,” said Susannah Streeter, senior investment and market analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, noting that sharp swings in energy prices will continue to weigh heavily on indices. “There is still real pressure on oil prices on top of inflationary concerns.”
Commodities were rising across the board on a series of issues that threatened to pinch supply chains. Comex Copper gained 1.6% to $4.76 a pound, its fifth-highest close on record, leaving it up 6.9% for the year, according to Dow Jones Market Data dating back to 1988.
Aluminum, nickel and steel prices also rose on concerns ranging from war in Ukraine to Covid-19 lockdowns in China. Tangshan, the largest steel city in China, tell people to stay home due to a Covid-19 surge, according to Reuters. The city accounts for 58% of China’s steel strip production, London-based commodities broker SP Angel said in a Wednesday note.
“Inflation is still the 800-pound gorilla,” said Doug Sandler, global head of strategy at RiverFront Investment Group. The concern is that rising prices will force the Federal Reserve to raise rates faster than investors had expected, he said.
Mr Sandler said his company began to reduce its stock holdings earlier this year due to concerns about a riskier and more uncertain environment for the US and global economies. The hope, he said, is that the supply chain issues that have driven up the price of everything from corn to copper will resolve themselves in the coming months, reducing the need significantly higher fed funds rates.
A rally in US government bond yields has stalled. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury fell slightly to 2.332% in recent trades from 2.375% the previous day. US government bond yields soared this week after Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank was ready to raise interest rates in half-percentage-point increments if necessary to control inflation. Yields rise when bond prices fall.
The Russian stock market is expected to partially reopen on Thursday, nearly a month after markets closed following the country’s invasion of Ukraine. Investors and analysts expect the reopening could send Russian stocks into a tailspin.
In recent days, global markets seemed to have turned the page, despite concerns about rising inflation and the war in Ukraine. On Tuesday, the S&P 500 surpassed its 200-day moving average after falling below it on Feb. 17. losses recorded since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
Major indexes in Europe and Asia saw similar moves.
The recent rally has come even as Russia’s attacks on Ukraine escalate, Western countries continue to impose sanctions and price pressures show no sign of abating. New inflation data on Wednesday showed UK consumer prices rose 6.2% in February from a year earlier, compared with 5.5% in January, marking the highest rate highest since March 1992.
Fari Hamzei of Hamzei Analytics said the recent rebound in stocks came on low volume, indicating it could be a so-called bearish rally. He is looking for a few days of steep declines in which 90% of New York Stock Exchange stocks are falling, which would signal a buying opportunity.
“We haven’t seen a surrender,” he said. “You need volume to confirm price action.”
A sharp rise in oil prices could trigger such a decline. Hamzei expects WTI crude oil, which changed hands at around $114 a barrel on Wednesday, to climb between $135 and $145 a barrel. A significant escalation of the conflict in Ukraine, he said, could also push investors out of stocks.
In European markets, the Stoxx Europe 600 closed down 1%, erasing earlier gains once oil prices rose sharply. London’s FTSE 100 fell 0.2%.
In midday trading in New York, shares of energy companies also rose. western oil,
Exxon Mobil and Chevron each gained about 0.8% to 1.6%.
Rising oil prices could spark greater consumer interest in electric vehicles, analysts say. Tesla shares rose about 0.6% in the early afternoon. The stock has risen each of the past seven trading days, its longest winning streak since August 2021, sending the electric vehicle maker up more than 30% during that time.
Meanwhile, stocks of meme stocks — which have fallen sharply this year — have seen a resurgence. GameStop shares soared 10% after company chairman Ryan Cohen revealed his company purchased 100,000 shares of the company on Tuesday. AMC Entertainment Holdings Stock,
which tend to move in correlation with GameStop, climbed 14%.
Adobe shares fell 9.6%. The software company reported higher earnings and better-than-expected revenue growth on Tuesday, but said it expects its annual revenue to be hit by the war in Ukraine.
More signs emerged on Wednesday that investors were eyeing assets they perceived to be safer. The ICE US Dollar Index, which tracks the currency against a basket of others, rose 0.2% in recent trades. The price of gold rose 0.4%.
In Asia, the main indices ended higher. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 1.2%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 jumped 3%. China’s Shanghai Composite rose 0.3%.
—Georgi Kantchev contributed to this article.
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