By DAMIAN J. TROISE and ALEX VEIGA, AP Business Writers
Stocks are down on Wall Street in afternoon trading Wednesday, giving back some of their big gains from earlier this week as rising bond yields amp up pressure on markets again.
The S&P 500 fell 0.4% as of 1:53 p.m. Eastern. The benchmark index is coming off its best two-day rally since the spring of 2020.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 80 points, or 0.3%, to 30,237 and the Nasdaq fell 0.6%.
The broader market is still bruised from its stumble in September, but investors have been hoping that signs of a softening economy may convince central banks to temper their aggressive interest rate hikes. Wall Street is also preparing for the next round of corporate earnings reports to get a better sense of how hard the hottest inflation in four decades is squeezing businesses and consumers.
Retailers, communication companies and banks were among the biggest weights on the market. Target fell 0.6%, Warner Bros. Discovery dropped 2.2%, Bank of America slid 1.9%.
Small company stocks also fell, sending the Russell 2000 index 1.1% lower.
Treasury yields rose and applied more pressure to stocks after several days of relief. The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which helps set rates for mortgages and many other kinds of loans, jumped to 3.77% from 3.61% late Tuesday.
The yield on the two-year Treasury, which more closely tracks expectations for Federal Reserve action, rose to 4.14% from 4.10% late Monday.
Energy stocks gained ground as U.S. crude oil prices rose 1.4%. The OPEC+ cartel of oil-exporting countries decided to sharply cut production to support sagging oil prices. Exxon Mobil rose 4.7%.
Higher energy prices, particularly for gasoline, were a big reason for inflation’s surge earlier in the year. Stubbornly hot inflation, despite energy costs easing over the last few months, remains a big focus for Wall Street. The Fed and other central banks have been raising interest rates to make borrowing more difficult and slow economic growth, but Wall Street is concerned that the potential solution for high inflation could result in a recession.
Investors are looking for signs that the economy is slowing enough to allow central banks a reason to ease up on rate hikes. Some signs this week included a tamer rate hike by Australia’s central bank and a U.S. report showing that the number of available jobs plummeted in August.
Employment has been a particularly strong area of the economy and any signs that the hot job market is cooling could mean that inflation might follow. Analysts have said such hopes may be premature. A report on U.S. job growth at private employers came in stronger than expected Wednesday, as did a report on the services sector.
Wall Street will get a more detailed look at employment in the U.S. on Friday with the government’s monthly jobs report for September.
Stocks are “in the midst of a tug of war between reality and expectations,” said Terry Sandven, chief equity strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management.
The reality is that inflation remains hot while markets expect it has peaked and that the Fed will ease up on rate increases, he said. Trading will likely remain volatile because of that dynamic and other uncertainties hanging over the market.
“We need time for the pace of inflation to show it’s under control,” he said.
The Fed has said it is determined to continue raising interest rates until it is satisfied that inflation is under control. That resolve has been echoed by some central banks globally.
New Zealand’s central bank raised its benchmark interest rate to 3.5%, saying inflation remained too high, most recently at 7.3%, and labor scarce. The half-point rate increase was the fifth in a row by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand since February.
Yuri Kageyama contributed to this report.
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