US stocks plummeted Tuesday as renewed concerns about the Omicron variant of Covid-19 weighed on sentiment. Comments from Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell didn't help. Powell told Congress that the Fed no longer thought inflation was "transitory" and he hinted that the Fed could accelerate its plans to cut back on, or taper, bond purchases.
As stocks settle after the trading day, levels might still change slightly.
Just call it a flight to iSafety.
Apple (AAPL) was up 2.8% in late afternoon trading Tuesday. That made it one of only two Dow stocks in the green on what was a brutal day for markets due to the Omicron variant and Fed tapering worries. Nike (NKE) was the only other gainer.
Apple was also the second biggest winner in the S&P 500 and was just one of 28 stocks in that blue chip index trading higher. Vaccine maker Pfizer (PFE), a former Dow component, was the biggest winner in the S&P 500 with a nearly 3% gain.
There was no specific catalyst or news event to explain why Apple was bucking the down trend. But the iPhone maker is clearly a favorite of investors (and gadget lovers) thanks to its strong earnings and sales growth. Having $191 billion in cash on the balance sheet probably helps too. Apple stock even pays a small dividend.
Apple shares are now up nearly 25% this year and the company is worth a whopping $2.7 trillion. Investors are hoping the new iPhone 13 will keep the momentum going for the tech giant.
Oil prices fell sharply on Tuesday to levels unseen since late August on worries that Omicron will dent previously robust demand for energy.
US crude dropped nearly 7% to $65.30 a barrel in afternoon trading. At session lows, oil fell below $65 a barrel for the first time in three months.
The selloff leaves oil down by a staggering 23% in just the past three weeks. As recently as November 10, crude was flirting with $85 a barrel.
The reversal was at first driven by an expectation that the United States and other countries would tap strategic oil reserves to cool off red-hot prices.
But more recently oil is losing steam on fears the new Covid variant will hurt oil demand by causing fewer people to drive, fly and commute. Crude plunged by 13% on Friday, its worst day since April 2020, and only posted a modest rebound on Monday.
Investors got a one-two punch of bad news Tuesday.
Markets started the day on a sour note, when Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said that current vaccineswill struggle with Omicron.
Then, Fed Chair Jerome Powell testified before the Senate Banking Committee that the central bank would consider cutting back on its emergency economic stimulus earlier than expected.
Just a few days removed from the market's worst day since February, stocks tumbled once again.
- The Dow fell 630 points, or 1.8%
- The S&P was down 1.7%.
- The Nasdaq was 1.8% lower.
Stocks aren't the only thing falling today, bond yields are also way down. Just not as much as they were a little while ago.
The 10-year US Treasury bond yield is 0.06 percentage points lower at 1.47%, the lowest level since the start of the month. But prior to Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell's comments concerning the timeline of the central bank's stimulus wind-down, they were even lower.
Powell saying that the Fed's tapering might wrap up sooner than expected moved up the anticipated timeline of the first likely interest rate hike of this economic cycle. This is affecting bond yields because they track future interest rate expectations.
America's labor force participation hasn't recovered as much as other labor market data points have in the recovery. That's a massive issue, not only because there's a worker shortage, but also because it's disproportionately affecting women.
Having paid leave policies as well as universal pre-K to account for childcare in the first two years of a child's life could help get women to rejoin the labor force, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said during today's Senate hearing.
The stock market looks a lot uglier in the late morning than it did at the open... and we opened in the red!
All three major indexes are sharply lower as Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen are talking about the economy in Washington.
Why are markets so freaked out? It may have been the tapering talk...
The Fed announced an end to its pandemic-era stimulus program earlier this month, meaning that it is decreasing the amount of securities is buys every month. The pace of this so-called "taper" is now the next big topic. And it seemed that Powell indicated this pace could pick up given the health of the recovery and inflationary pressures.
Ouch -- at least for stocks. The stock market likes an accommodative Fed, so any tightening is news the market doesn't like.
Elsewhere, Bitcoin has given up its gains of the morning and is now flat -- compared with a 3% advance not long ago.
Now that the Federal Reserve has announced the end to its pandemic-era stimulus program, the next question is how long will it take until its fully rolled off.
That could happen sooner than most expect.
"At this point the economy is very strong and inflationary pressures are high and it is therefore appropriate in my view to consider wrapping up the taper of our asset purchases ... perhaps a few months sooner," Fed Chair Jerome Powell testified before the Senate Tuesday.
Earlier this month, the Fed announced it would reduce the pace of those monthly purchases, slashing bond buying by $10 billion for Treasury securities and $5 billion for agency mortgage-backed securities.
At its December meeting, the central bankers will discuss whether this pace is still appropriate, Powell said.
He also added that by then, the bankers will have seen another labor market report -- due this Friday -- and might know more about the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
It's about learning about the transmissibility, the ability of existing vaccines working against it and about the severity of the illness if contracted, Powell said.
"Then and only then we can make an assessment on the effect on the economy," he added.
"Transitory" has been one of those pandemic buzzwords to describe inflation. Fed Chair Jerome Powell thinks it's time we stop using it.
The Federal Reserve uses "transitory" to describe the Covid-era jump in prices, which the central bank believes to be temporary. Although temporary sounds like it should be short-term, prices have been on the rise for a while now.
The traditional meaning of "transitory" is not what the Fed thinks it means at all. According to the central bank, transitory means it won't leave any marks on the economy one the trends reverse again... whenever that may be.
"Everything is transitory. Life is transitory," said Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey during the hearing.
"It's probably a good time to retire that word and explain what we mean," Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said in response.
He continued that the Fed's test for high inflation has been met now, meaning that prices have been on the rise for long enough for the central bank to change its policy, which it announced earlier this month.
"Generally speaking the higher prices we're seeing can be traced back to the pandemic," Powell said. But the increases are now more broad, and the upward pressure on inflation is no longer isolated, he added.
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Now, let's delve into the concepts used in the provided article:
Omicron Variant and Market Impact: The article highlights concerns about the Omicron variant of Covid-19 affecting market sentiment. The fear of a new variant impacting economic activities, such as reduced travel and consumption, has led to a significant sell-off in the stock market.
Federal Reserve and Tapering: Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell's comments about inflation not being "transitory" and the possibility of accelerating plans to cut back on bond purchases (tapering) have contributed to market uncertainty. Powell's statements indicate a shift in the central bank's stance, impacting both stock and bond markets.
Stock Market Performance: The Dow Jones Industrial Average (Dow), S&P 500, and Nasdaq Composite indices all experienced significant declines, reflecting the overall negative sentiment in the market. Specific point drops and percentage losses for each index are provided, giving a snapshot of the market's performance on that particular day.
Apple's Performance Amid Market Turmoil: Despite the broader market decline, Apple's stock stood out as one of the two Dow stocks in the green. The article attributes this resilience to Apple's strong earnings and sales growth, making it a preferred choice for investors. The mention of Apple's cash reserves and its positive trajectory in the market provides context for its outperformance.
Oil Prices and Omicron Impact: Oil prices experienced a sharp decline due to concerns that the Omicron variant could dampen global demand for energy. The article mentions a nearly 7% drop in US crude oil prices, with the selloff attributed to fears of reduced travel and economic activity.
Impact on Treasury Yields: Powell's comments about the Fed's tapering plans affected bond yields. The 10-year US Treasury bond yield decreased, reflecting market expectations of a sooner-than-anticipated end to the central bank's stimulus program and a potential earlier interest rate hike.
Labor Force Participation and Policy Solutions: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen discussed the challenges in America's labor force participation, particularly affecting women. Yellen suggested that paid leave policies and universal pre-K could encourage women to rejoin the labor force, addressing both the worker shortage and gender-specific issues.
Market Reaction to Powell and Yellen's Statements: The article notes the negative impact on the stock market as Powell and Yellen discussed economic conditions. The stock market reacted unfavorably to the Federal Reserve's tapering talk, indicating that investors prefer a more accommodative stance.
Powell's Testimony on Tapering and Economic Strength: Powell mentioned the possibility of wrapping up the taper of asset purchases sooner than expected, emphasizing the strength of the economy and high inflationary pressures. The article provides insights into Powell's comments on monitoring labor market reports and assessing the impact of the Omicron variant on the economy.
Reevaluation of "Transitory" Inflation: Powell urged a stop to using the term "transitory" to describe inflation, acknowledging that the higher prices were not as temporary as initially thought. He highlighted that the Fed's policy shift was based on the prolonged nature of inflation, signaling a departure from the term's traditional meaning.
In conclusion, this article covers a range of economic concepts, including market reactions to external events, central bank policies, individual stock performance, commodity prices, and the broader economic implications of global developments.