By William Watts and Joseph Adinolfi
U.S. stocks dropped sharply Friday, with major indexes posting their lowest finishes since 2020 and logging a third straight quarterly decline as investors grew more fearful that aggressive interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve will drive the economy into a downturn in an attempt to quell inflation.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +0.45% dropped 500.10 points, or 1.7%, to close at 28,725.51.
The S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -0.03% dropped 54.85 points, or 1.5%, to end at 3,585.61.
The Nasdaq Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP -0.52% shed 161.88 points, of 1.5%, finishing at 10,575.61.
The drop left the Dow and S&P 500 at their lowest since November 2020, while the Nasdaq posted its lowest close since July 29, 2020. The Dow dropped 8.8% in September, while the S&P 500 tumbled 9.3% and the Nasdaq lost 10.5%.
For the quarter, the Dow dropped 6.7%, the S&P 500 declined 5.3% and the Nasdaq gave up 4.1%.
What’s driving the market
In keeping with the historical pattern, U.S. stocks suffered during the month of September as an assertive Federal Reserve helped push Treasury yields and the dollar higher, which in turn undermined equity valuations.
Investors on Friday digested a reading from the personal consumption expenditure inflation index for August, which showed that core consumer prices climbed by 0.6% last month, more than Wall Street’s forecast of 0.5%. The core inflation measure excludes volatile food and energy prices.
“That means the Fed will remain hell-bent on killing inflation. And the best way to do that is to increase rates, kill the housing market, and get rental costs down. The PCE doesn’t have housing and rents as a big component as the CPI does, so the fact that it is rising is a warning sign,” said Louis Navellier, founder of Navellier & Associates, in emailed comments.
The reading largely confirmed similar data from the consumer-price index, another closely watched inflation barometer, which sent stocks lower earlier this month. Since that report was released just over two weeks ago, the S&P 500 has fallen more than 10%.
Helping to underscore this point, data out of the eurozone showed inflation accelerated at a record pace last month.