Following their worst week since the start of the pandemic, US stocks fell sharply on Monday, with the S&P 500 index falling into correction territory and the Dow tumbling 750 points.
Markets have fallen for three weeks in a row to begin 2022, as investors are concerned about inflation’s growing threat to the economic recovery and the likelihood that the Federal Reserve will aggressively raise interest rates to combat it. The sell-off has battered all sectors and heaped losses on high-risk and speculative markets such as cryptocurrencies. All eyes are now on the Federal Reserve’s upcoming meeting, as well as the flurry of earnings reports from companies such as Tesla, Apple, 3M, GE, Boeing, and others in the coming days.
According to Dan Ives, managing director of equity research at Wedbush Securities, Wall Street is in a “white-knuckle period” and investors are desperate for good news.
“It’s been a nightmare 2022 for investors thus far,” Ives said. “Risk assets, such as tech stocks and Bitcoin, are currently being sold globally with nowhere to hide.”
Following their worst week since March 2020, the three major US indexes fell sharply on Monday. The Dow Jones industrial average had dropped 755 points, or 2.2 percent, by early afternoon. The S&P 500 fell nearly 110 points, or 2.5 percent, and is now down 10% from its January high, signaling the start of a correction. The Nasdaq, which is heavily weighted toward technology, fell more than 375 points, or 2.7 percent. The Russell 2000 small-cap index fell 0.9 percent as well.
Tesla and Netflix were both down 5.9 percent and 6.7 percent, respectively. Nvidia fell 6.2 percent, while Moderna fell 9.4 percent.
Cryptocurrencies continued to swing after losing about $130 billion in value in a 24-hour period over the weekend. Bitcoin fell to a multi-month low before reversing course Monday afternoon and regaining control of the $36,000 mark. Ethereum had recovered the majority of its losses and was trading near $2,385.
Those hoping for a reduction in volatility in the coming days will be disappointed, according to Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell. Tensions over the Fed’s plans, as well as growing fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, have weighed on an already tense market. Volatility has more than doubled this year, according to Cboe’s volatility index.
“Perhaps Apple, Microsoft, and Tesla can come to the rescue with some knockout numbers when they report this week,” Mould said in an email on Monday. “On the other hand, a string of disappointing updates from these technology behemoths would only exacerbate sentiment.”
Americans are dealing with the highest inflation in 40 years, which has driven up prices for everything from groceries to gasoline to home appliances. A move to raise interest rates could alleviate the pain, but it could also limit economic activity, which often has a negative impact on stocks, particularly high-flying companies.
According to Wayne Wicker, chief investment officer at MissionSquare Retirement, Wall Street’s panic is a reflection of investors’ more cautious outlook on economic growth this year. Markets plummeting in the early days of the pandemic made for simple year-over-year comparisons in 2021, but achieving growth under current conditions will be much more difficult.
“Markets despise uncertainty, and the current combination of higher interest rates, higher inflation, and moderating earnings growth is resulting in elevated volatility,” Wicker said. To break even for January, the S&P 500 index would need to recover more than 9% by next week. The brutal start to 2022 isn’t always a “reliable predictor of a down year,” eTrade’s managing director of trading Chris Larkin said on Monday. Nonetheless, “three-week losing streaks at the start of a year have some unfavorable historical connotations.”
Even oil markets, which had been defying 2022’s negative trends, were dragged down by Monday’s sell-off. The U.S. oil benchmark, West Texas intermediate crude, fell nearly 2.8 percent to around $82.76 per barrel. Brent crude, the international benchmark for oil, fell more than 2.4 percent to around $85.75.