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Stock market today: Wall Street slips as household get more nervous

NEW YORK (AP) – Another seemingly listless week on Wall Street came to a quiet close on Wall Street on Friday, but big worries continue to roil under the surface.

The S&P 500 dipped 6.54 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 4,124.08 to cap a sixth straight week where it moved by less than one-per-cent.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 8.89, or less than 0.1 per cent, to 33,300.62, while the Nasdaq composite lost 43.76, or 0.4 per cent, to 12,284.74.

Despite the seemingly placid moves for the overall market, big swings have swirled underneath the surface amid worries about a possible recession, high inflation and the United States (US) government inching toward what could be a catastrophic default on its debt.

It’s not just Wall Street that’s concerned. Sentiment among US consumers is tumbling, according to a preliminary survey by the University of Michigan.

That’s a worry because strong spending by consumers has been one of the main forces preventing a recession as the economy slows.Director of the Surveys of Consumers Joanne Hsu, pointed to the looming June 1 deadline when the US government could run out of cash to pay its bills unless Congress allows it to borrow more.

A trader reacts on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange at the closing bell. PHOTO: AFP

“If policymakers fail to resolve the debt ceiling crisis, these dismal views over the economy will exacerbate the dire economic consequences of default,” she said in a statement. US President Joe Biden and congressional leaders postponed a meeting set for Friday on the debt limit crisis to next week. The delay was billed as a sign of positive exchanges, and staff-level talks are expected to continue through the weekend.

One area under heavy pressure this week looking to stabilise was PacWest Bancorp’s stock.
It’s been under heavy scrutiny as Wall Street hunts for the next possible US bank to fail following three high-profile collapses since March. PacWest fell three-per-cent after flipping from a gain in the morning. A day earlier, it slid sharply after disclosing a flight of deposits from the prior week. Its stock lost 21 per cent this past week.

Banks have been bending under the weight of much higher interest rates, which have caused some customers to pull deposits in search of higher yields while also dragging down prices for the investments that the banks hold.

Rates are so high because the Federal Reserve (Fed) has been hiking them at a furious pace in order to drive down inflation.

Reports this week suggested inflation is continuing to moderate from its peak last year, though it remains way too high for the comfort of households and regulators.

The hope on Wall Street is that easing inflation may convince the Fed to hold off on raising rates again at its next meeting in June.

That would offer some breathing room to both the economy, which has slowed under the weight of higher rates, and to financial markets, where prices began falling long ago.

One potential wild card arrived in Friday’s report on consumer sentiment. It suggested US households are girding for 3.2 per cent inflation over the long run.

That’s higher than last month’s reading of three-per-cent and the highest level since 2011.

One worry at the Fed is that if expectations for high inflation become entrenched, it could change behaviours by shoppers and others across the economy that only worsens inflation.

Treasury yields rose in the bond market following the consumer-sentiment report.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury erased an earlier dip and climbed to 3.47 per cent from 3.39 per cent late on Thursday. It helps set rates for mortgages and other important loans.

The two-year yield, which moves more on expectations for the Fed, rose to 3.99 per cent from 3.90 per cent. News Corp rose 8.5 per cent after it reported a milder drop in profit and revenue for the latest quarter than analysts expected.

That’s been the trend this earnings reporting season. Reports have been better than feared but still weaker than a year earlier. Companies in the S&P 500 are on track to report a second straight quarter of drops in earnings per share, something that’s called an “earnings recession.”

First Solar soared 26.5 per cent after announcing it’s purchasing Evolar AB, a European company, to accelerate its development of high efficiency tandem devices and other technologies.

On the losing end of Wall Street was Gen Digital, which fell 5.5 per cent despite reporting stronger profit and revenue for the latest quarter than expected.

Several Big Tech stocks were also weak. They and other high-growth stocks are seen as some of the hardest hit by high interest rates.

Amazon fell 1.7 per cent and was the heaviest weight on the S&P 500.

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