Wall Street pitched lower for the second straight session today as record-high oil prices and a bleak economic assessment from the Federal...
NEW YORK — Wall Street pitched lower for the second straight session today as record-high oil prices and a bleak economic assessment from the Federal Reserve deepened investors’ worry that Americans may face several more months of rising costs and a shaky employment picture.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 227.24 to 12,601.44, after falling nearly 200 points on Tuesday. That brings its two-day loss to 427 points, or more than 3 percent.
Microsoft, one of the 30 Dow stocks, ended off 51 cents to close at $28.25 a share. Boeing, also a Dow stock, slid $3.95 to $81.19 after American Airlines said it would retire as many as 85 jets, though Boeing CEO Jim McNerney said 80 percent of Boeing’s order backlog comes from abroad.
Broader stock indicators also stumbled. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 22.69 to 1,390.71, while the Nasdaq composite index fell 43.99 to 2,456.09.
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Early in the day, stocks began falling on the surging price of oil, which shot up more than $4 and breached $133 a barrel for the first time on the futures market today.
The stock market slumped further after minutes from last month’s Fed meeting revealed that while policymakers expected sharply lower economic growth and higher unemployment later this year, inflationary risks are likely to keep the central bank from cutting rates again. Lower interest rates spur economic growth, but they also tend to accelerate inflation.
High commodities prices have been a big source of anxiety for investors, as many retailers and credit-card companies have noticed consumers paring back spending on discretionary items, including clothing and jewelry, to be able to afford necessities such as gasoline and groceries.
Meanwhile, the Fed’s minutes suggest that the central bank’s two main priorities — making sure the economy is growing, and keeping inflation in check — are both going to be tough to achieve through monetary policy. That is a troubling prospect for investors hoping that the economy will bounce back in the second half of the year and that the central bank will be able to concentrate on controlling inflation.
“It absolutely underscores the two competing mandates for the Federal Reserve: growth and price stability. It captures the tug-of-war between the two mandates, crystallizes how different those two mandates are,” said Quincy Krosby, chief investment strategist for The Hartford. “If employment deteriorates dramatically, the Fed has a choice — do they worry about inflationary pressure, or do they want to continue to support their growth mandate?”