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US stocks tumbled on Thursday, with the major averages on track to post steep declines for the month of June and first half of 2022 as concerns over heightened inflation and the prospects of a recession weighed on risk assets.

The S&P 500 fell by about 1% just after market open to pace for a third straight day of losses. The Dow dropped more than 300 points, or 1.1%, and the Nasdaq declined by about 1.3%.

Stocks held lower in early trading after a new report showed core personal consumption expenditures — the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge — decelerated slightly more than expected in May. This metric rose by 4.7% over last year compared to the 4.8% increase anticipated, according to Bloomberg data. Headline inflation, which includes energy and food price changes, also rose slightly less than expected, or at a 6.3% annual rate to match April’s pace. However, separate data showed real personal spending fell by a larger-than-expected 0.4% in May after a rise of 0.7% in April, suggesting consumers were pulling back on some spending with inflation at current levels.

The risk-off mood in equities extended to other asset classes including oil. West Texas intermediate crude futures fell back below $110 per barrel, and bitcoin prices sank to just over $19,000.

Thursday’s price action extended a streak of declines for US equities. These have been hit hard for months now as investors have weighed persistently hot inflation against risks of an economic downturn, as the Federal Reserve responds to inflation with faster tightening. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell this week reaffirmed that the central bank’s main goal is bringing down inflation running at its fastest rate in over 40 years, suggesting that this aim will take priority over fully preserving activity elsewhere in the economy.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during morning trading on June 23, 2022 in New York City. Stocks opened on a positive note this morning after ending lower yesterday ahead of today’s testimony by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell before a House panel to discuss the state of inflation in the United States. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

“Is there a risk we would go too far? Certainly there’s a risk,” Powell said at the European Central Bank’s annual economic policy roundtable conference in Portugal on Wednesday. “The bigger mistake to make — let’s put it that way — would be to fail to restore price stability.”

Powell earlier in June suggested either a 50 or 75 basis point interest rate hike would most likely be on the table following the Fed’s July meeting. And in the weeks since, a number of other key central bank officials have affirmed that the latter will probably be the most appropriate option, with inflation and consumer inflation expectations each remaining elevated.

Amid the myriad concerns facing markets as of late, stocks are on track to close out the worst first half of a year in decades. Based on Wednesday’s closing prices, the S&P 500 is set to post a 19.9% decline for the first six months of the year — its worst performance since 1970. For the month of June alone, the index is on track to slide by 7.6%.

All 11 major sectors in the index are heading toward monthly losses, with the cyclical energy, materials and financials sectors among the worst performers as fears over a recession have resurged. That leadership also reversed what was seen earlier this year, when energy stocks and outperformed amid oil and other energy commodities’ march higher. The more defensive health-care, consumer staples and utilities sectors outperformed in June.

Both the Dow and Nasdaq Composite also headed for marked monthly and year-to-date losses. As of Thursday’s close, the Dow had fallen 14.6% for the first half of the year, and the Nasdaq shed nearly 29%.

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originally published at Finance - RSV News

This news story originally appeared at Finance - RSV News on 9 October 2022