S&P 500’s Slide From Record Deepens as Tech Sinks: Markets Wrap

(Bloomberg) — The stock market headed toward its longest losing streak since January as a handful of big techs sold off — despite a slide in bond yields.

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Equities fell for a fourth straight day, with the S&P 500 extending a slide from its all-time high to more than 4%. Chipmakers bore the brunt of the selling after ASML Holding NV’s orders tumbled. Nvidia Corp. led losses in megacaps. A tug of war between bulls and bears unfolded amid the expiration of VIX options — with Wall Street’s favorite volatility gauge whipsawing.

After a 10% stock rally in the first quarter — the strongest start to a year since 2019 — investors have been increasingly skeptical about how much further the market could go over the near term, even accounting for the continued strength in the economy.

“The combination of geopolitical uncertainty, rising interest rates, Fed hawkishness, and inflation frustration have combined to put bears temporarily in charge,” said Mark Hackett at Nationwide.

The S&P 500 hovered near 5,030. The Nasdaq 100 dropped 1%. Treasuries extended gains amid strong demand in a $13 billion sale of 20-year bonds. Just a day after Jerome Powell thew cold water on rate-cut bets, dip buyers emerged, with two-year yields dropping further below 5%.

Powell signaled Tuesday that policymakers will wait longer than previously anticipated to cut interest rates following a series of surprisingly high inflation readings. Fed officials narrowly penciled in three cuts in forecasts published last month — but investors are now betting on just one to two this year, futures markets show.

“Fed Chair Powell was downright hawkish,” said Win Thin and Elias Haddad at Brown Brothers Harriman. “The Fed wants the market to do the tightening for them. Financial conditions remain too loose and so some combination of higher yields, wider spreads, stronger dollar, and lower equities is needed to tighten conditions.”

While global equities are facing tactical headwinds, this is just a consolidation phase and stocks are expected to keep rising this year, according to UBS strategists led by Andrew Garthwaite.

They noted positive developments including artificial intelligence pushing productivity and earnings higher, lower warranted equity risk premium, likely falling labor costs and less worries on margin pressures.

The equity risk premium for US equities — a measure of the differential between stocks and bonds’ expected returns — is now deep in negative territory, something that hasn’t happened since early 2000s.

While this is not necessarily a negative indicator for the stock market, it all depends on the economic cycle. The lower ERP can be seen as a promise of a future boost in corporate profits, but also that a bubble is in the making.

Fundamentals and technical trends for equity markets still appear supportive, suggesting the recent pullback should prove temporary, according to HSBC strategists led by Max Kettner, who are using the decline to add to their bullish stance.

“Sentiment and positioning are not flashing a warning signal, though real money investors have started to extend their constructive stance on equities lately, they wrote.

US corporate earnings are set for a “healthier runway” through 2024 and investors are growing more confident that companies can meet expectations, according to Morgan Stanley strategists.

The market is watching for profits to bottom in the first quarter before sequentially recovering in the second quarter and eventually expanding in the back half of the year, a team including Michelle Weaver and Michael Wilson wrote.

Corporate Highlights:

  • President Joe Biden is calling for higher tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum, part of a series of steps to shore up the American steel sector and woo its workers in this year’s election.

  • Microsoft Corp.’s $13 billion investment into OpenAI Inc. is set to avoid a formal investigation by European Union merger watchdogs, calming fears that the relationship could be forced apart.

  • Jane Street Group LLC generated $10.6 billion in net trading revenue last year, as the proprietary-trading firm continues to cement its presence as a dominant market-maker.

  • U.S. Bancorp reduced the outlook for a key driver of its profit for the year as lenders face pressure to pay more for deposits.

  • Abbott Laboratories raised the lower end of its annual profit forecast as strong sales in medical devices drove first-quarter earnings and revenue above expectations.

Key events this week:

  • Taiwan Semiconductor earnings, Thursday

  • US Conf. Board leading index, existing home sales, initial jobless claims, Thursday

  • Fed Governor Michelle Bowman speaks, Thursday

  • New York Fed President John Williams speaks, Thursday

  • Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic speaks, Thursday

  • BOE Deputy Governor Dave Ramsden and ECB Governing Council member Joachim Nagel speak, Friday

  • Chicago Fed President Austan Goolsbee speaks, Friday

Some of the main moves in markets:

Stocks

  • The S&P 500 fell 0.5% as of 1:26 p.m. New York time

  • The Nasdaq 100 fell 1%

  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.1%

  • The MSCI World index fell 0.3%

Currencies

  • The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index fell 0.3%

  • The euro rose 0.3% to $1.0655

  • The British pound was little changed at $1.2436

  • The Japanese yen rose 0.2% to 154.35 per dollar

Cryptocurrencies

  • Bitcoin fell 3.7% to $60,679.89

  • Ether fell 3.1% to $2,974.64

Bonds

  • The yield on 10-year Treasuries declined seven basis points to 4.60%

  • Germany’s 10-year yield declined two basis points to 2.47%

  • Britain’s 10-year yield declined four basis points to 4.26%

Commodities

  • West Texas Intermediate crude fell 3% to $82.82 a barrel

  • Spot gold fell 0.4% to $2,372.70 an ounce

This story was produced with the assistance of Bloomberg Automation.

–With assistance from Jessica Menton, Michael Msika, Sagarika Jaisinghani and Farah Elbahrawy.

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