NEW YORK: Worries about the impact of a tightening job market on the prospects for inflation and a surge in bond yields sent investors fleeing equities on Friday, with the Dow Jones Industrials Average swooning almost 666 points, for its biggest daily percentage loss in 20 months.
It was the biggest daily point fall in the Dow since December 2008 during the financial crisis. With Friday’s rout, Wall Street’s three major indexes logged their biggest weekly losses in two years, after closing at record highs the previous week. The S&P 500 and Dow saw their worst weeks since early January 2016 while Nasdaq had its worst week since early Feb 2016.
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“People are starting to get increasingly uncomfortable with the rapid rise in interest rates that we have seen and the uncertainty of how that is actually going to start to play out relative to competition for stocks,” said Chuck Carlson, chief executive officer at Horizon Investment Services in Hammond, Indiana.
Overnight stock price losses accelerated after the US Labor Department reported employment grew more than expected in January with the biggest wage gain in more than 8-1/2 years.
The picture of workers commanding higher salaries fuelled expectations that inflation is on the rise, which could prompt the Federal Reserve to take a more aggressive approach to rate hikes this year. That caused the 10-year Treasury yield to surge to 2.8% the highest since January 2014, which could make returns on Treasuries look more attractive relative to stocks.
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But market players are not convinced that the bull market in stocks that saw the S&P 500 rise 5.6% in January is over. In fact many say a pull-back was overdue.
“You have a jobs report today that was pretty robust all kind of feeding into the higher interest rates, greater inflation story, and I think the markets are trying to grapple with that right now,” said Carlson.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 4th, 2018.
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