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Markets

Wall Street ends down sharply on fears of aggressive Fed rate hikes

Newest inflation figures top analysts' estimates

Fed member said the data had made him "dramatically" more hawkish.   © Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- Wall Street ended sharply lower on Thursday after U.S. consumer prices data came in hotter than expected and subsequent comments from a Federal Reserve official raised fears the U.S. central bank will hike rates aggressively to fight inflation.

U.S. Labor Department data showed consumer prices surged 7.5% last month on a year-over-year basis, topping economists' estimates of 7.3% and marking the biggest annual increase in inflation in 40 years.

U.S. stocks fell further after St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard said the data had made him "dramatically" more hawkish. Bullard, a voting member of the Fed's rate-setting committee this year, said he now wanted a full percentage point of interest rate hikes by July 1.

"Inflation tends to be kryptonite to valuations. Higher inflation causes multiples to compress, and that's what we're experiencing right now," said Terry Sandven, chief equity strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Minneapolis.

"Volatility is likely to remain until in the number and magnitude of Fed rate hikes is better known."

Within minutes of Bullard comments, rate futures contracts were fully pricing an increase in the Fed's target range for its policy rate to 1%-1.25% by the end of its policy meeting in June, with some bets on an even steeper rate hike path.

Megacap growth stocks Tesla Inc, Nvidia and Microsoft each lost around 3%.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.47% to end at 35,241.59 points, while the S&P 500 lost 1.81% to 4,504.06.

The Nasdaq Composite dropped 2.1% to 14,185.64. It was the seventh time in 2022 that the Nasdaq lost more than 2% in a session.

The S&P 500 is now down about 5% in 2022, and the Nasdaq is down about 9%.

All of the 11 S&P 500 sector indexes declined, with technology, down 2.75%, and real estate, down 2.86%, leading the way lower.

Meanwhile, U.S. companies continued to report upbeat quarterly results. With 78% of the S&P 500 companies that have reported results beating analysts' profit estimates, according to Refinitiv data.

Walt Disney Co rose 3.4% after beating revenue and profit estimates on strong subscriber additions and attendance at U.S. theme parks.

Barbie maker Mattel Inc and cereal maker Kellogg Co gained 7.65% and 3.11%, respectively, after forecasting full-year profits above market expectations.

Thursday's session was busy. Volume on U.S. exchanges was 12.8 billion shares, compared with a 12.5 billion average over the last 20 trading days.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 3.08-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.26-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 31 new 52-week highs and 4 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 55 new highs and 102 new lows.

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