Investors around the world retreated from stocks Tuesday as a selloff in technology companies spread to other sectors of the market, leading to broad declines across major U.S. indexes.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled about 550 points, or 1.6%, in recent trading, on pace for its worst one-day drop since late January. The S&P 500 fell 1.1%. The Nasdaq Composite edged down 0.4%, cutting its losses after falling as much as 2.2% earlier in the day.
Investors have become increasingly concerned about signs of inflation lately, forcing many money managers to pare their positions in technology stocks. Growth stocks have traded lower for most of the past week, with the Nasdaq Composite down nearly 5% for May.
Yet on Tuesday, the selloff extended to shares of more economically sensitive companies as well, with all 11 sectors of the S&P 500 trading lower. Companies including Occidental Petroleum, OXY -7.40% Home Depot and Royal Caribbean posted declines of 3.5% or more. Shares of large growth companies also tumbled, with Tesla falling 2.5% and Apple dropping 1.4%.
The declines sent the Cboe Volatility Index, or VIX, known as Wall Street’s fear gauge, climbing higher as volatility returned to the market. It traded as high as 23.73 intraday Tuesday, its highest intraday value since March 10. The VIX has hovered below 20 for the past several weeks as the U.S. stock market has climbed to repeated records.
The S&P 500 and Dow industrials set records as recently as Friday after a lackluster jobs report for April sent stocks climbing on hopes that the figures would further delay a tightening of monetary policy in the future.
This week, however, concerns about inflation and supply chain issues have spooked markets again.
Investors are betting that inflation is likely to climb steeply in coming months, driven by pent-up spending as well as supply bottlenecks and a leap in commodity prices. A sharp and sustained jump in inflation would erode returns on fixed-income assets and stocks whose valuations rely on future earnings. Some money managers are concerned that it may also prompt the Federal Reserve to pare back its easy money policies sooner than anticipated.
“Inflation is an issue that is on everyone’s minds right now, and it is injecting a lot of uncertainty,” said Peter Langas, chief portfolio strategist at Bessemer Trust. “The question is, how does the Fed react to that?”
Technology and growth companies are bearing the brunt of inflation concerns this year after leading the market’s furious rally since last spring. Investors are increasingly worried that their high valuations may not be justified if inflation crimps the value of future earnings.
This week, those concerns have spilled over to other sectors as well, leading to a broader selloff.
“When inflation is rising quite rapidly and there is nothing around to contain it, that is when equities don’t tend to perform well,” said Seema Shah, chief strategist at Principal Global Investors. “For the last 10 to 20 years, inflation hasn’t been a concern for investors and so, if you look at portfolios, they are not positioned for inflation risks.”
Google parent Alphabet was among the megacap tech stocks that retreated Tuesday, falling 1.4%. Other technology companies also declined: Semiconductor giant Intel lost 2.1%, while International Business Machines fell 2.2%.
Palantir Technologies was a rare bright spot, rising 6.9% after the dating-mining-software specialist reported better-than-expected revenue and gave a strong forecast.
Of the S&P 500’s 11 sectors, the energy, financials and industrials groups posted the steepest declines.
In bond markets, the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note edged up to 1.621%, from 1.601% on Monday, marking its third consecutive trading day of gains. Yields rise as prices fall.
Overseas, the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 dropped 2%. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index fell 2%. Japan’s Nikkei 225 slumped 3.1%, while South Korea’s Kospi index retreated 1.2%.
Fresh data showed that factory-gate prices in China jumped last month by the most in 3½ years, adding to concerns about inflationary pressures spreading globally.
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