Wall Street’s main indexes fell sharply on Thursday as fresh evidence of a tight labor market and hawkish comments from policymakers deepened fears of elevated interest rates for longer than expected.
Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) dropped over 5% after the December sales of its China-made electric vehicles fell to a five-month low, while Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), which announced increased layoff plans, reversed premarket gains.
The reports came a day after data showed a moderate fall in U.S. job openings, in growing evidence that the labor market remains tight.
“The market wants to see more unemployment to get the Fed to stop hiking and the report today was actually good from an economic standpoint, but bad from getting the Fed to stop,” said Thomas Hayes, chairman at Great Hill Capital LLC in New York.
“This is going to be a knee-jerk reaction to stronger than expected economic data. But as the weeks roll on, reality will set in and more of these layoff announcements will be forthcoming.”
A strong labor market has been a concern for markets pummeled by rising borrowing costs as it gives the Federal Reserve a reason to raise rates for longer than expected this year.
In the previous session, Wall Street’s main indexes erased some of their gains after minutes from the Fed’s December meeting showed the central bank was laser-focused on fighting inflation even as officials agreed to slow the pace of rate hikes to limit risks to economic growth.
Traders were almost evenly split on chances of a 25-basis point and a 50-bps rate hike in February, but still see rates peaking at slightly above 5% in June.
The more comprehensive nonfarm payrolls report is due on Friday, which would provide further clues on labor demand and the rate hike trajectory.
At 9:49 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI) was down 409.07 points, or 1.23%, at 32,860.70, the S&P 500 (.SPX) was down 46.53 points, or 1.21%, at 3,806.44, and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) was down 148.62 points, or 1.42%, at 10,310.14.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 5.18-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and 3.46-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded five new 52-week highs and three new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 17 new highs and 33 new lows.