Stocks close lower as Fed minutes signal half-point rate hike ‘appropriate’ at future meetings

US stocks ended the trading session in the red on Wednesday after investors digested the minutes from the Federal Reserve’s March meeting, in which policymakers signaled that surging inflation and an incredibly tight labor market could warrant a half-point interest rate hike at future meetings.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished down 144.67 points at 34,496.51 while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite slipped 0.97% and 2.22%, respectively.

Ticker Security Last Exchange Change %
I: DJI DOW JONES AVERAGES 34496.51 -144.67 -0.42%
SP500 S&P500 4481.15 -43.97 -0.97%
I:COMP NASDAQ COMPOSITE INDEX 13888.817124 -315.35 -2.22%

The minutes also reaffirmed Fed Governor Lael Brainard’s remarks on Tuesday that the central bank could start to reduce the balance sheet as early as May. The 10-year Treasury yield has spiked above 2.6%, its highest level since March 2019.

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Oil has dipped below the $100 per barrel mark after the Energy Information Administration reported an unexpected rise in crude inventories by 2.4 million barrels. Analysts polled by Refinitiv were expecting a 2.05 million-barrel drop.

Ticker Security Last Exchange Change %
BP BP PLC 29.59 -0.11 -0.37%
CLC CHEVRON CORP. 164.87 +1.47 +0.90%
NDV DEVON ENERGY CORP. 58.34 -0.13 -0.22%
XOM EXXON MOBIL CORP. 83.65 +0.87 +1.05%
PXD PIONEER NATURAL RESOURCES CO. 241.98 -2.50 -1.02%
SHEL SHELL PLC 55.30 +0.39 +0.71%

Oil’s move came as executives from BP America, Chevron, Devon Energy, ExxonMobil, Pioneer Natural Resources and Shell USA tested before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on high gas prices. The national average gas price stood at $4.16 per gallon as of Wednesday, according to AAA.

RUSSIA INVADES UKRAINE: LIVE UPDATES

Also on Wednesday, the White House announced additional sanctions against Russia. Western governments will ban new investment in Russia following evidence that its soldiers deliberately killed civilians in Ukraine. The US Treasury said President Vladimir Putin’s government will be blocked from paying debts with dollars from American financial institutions, potentially increasing the risk of a default.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with top officials on support to aviation industry in Russia amid western sanctions vis videoconference at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Thursday, March 31, 2022. (Mikhail Klime (AP / AP Images)

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned of major consequences for the global economy as a result of the Russian-Ukraine war, including severe disruptions to the global flow of food and energy.

“Russia’s actions represent an unacceptable affront to the rules-based, global order, and will have enormous economic repercussions in Ukraine and beyond,” Yellen said in prepared remarks during her annual testimony before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday.

OIL PRICES TRADE CAUTIOUSLY AHEAD OF NEW SANCTIONS ON RUSSIA

In stocks, Tilray surged as high as 9% after reporting an unexpected profit in its latest quarter despite revenue coming in below Wall Street expectations. The cannabis producer has announced an exclusive deal with supermarket chain Whole Foods to sell hemp powers produced by its Manitoba Harvest subsidiary.

Ticker Security Last Exchange Change %
TLRY TILRAY BRANDS INC. 7.25 +0.22 +3.13%

Simply Good Foods climbed more than 4% after the nutritional foods and snacks maker reported better-than-expected profit and revenue for its latest quarter and raised its sales forecast for the current year.

Ticker Security Last Exchange Change %
SMPL THE SIMPLY GOOD FOODS CO. 40.21 +1.81 +4.71%

Meanwhile, Twitter shares slipped after Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the social media platform’s largest shareholder, updated an SEC filing disclosing his 9.2% stake to show that it is not passive. Twitter stock has rallied over the past two days on the initial news of the stake and Musk being given a board seat at the social media platform.

Ticker Security Last Exchange Change %
TWTR TWITTER INC. 50.76 -0.22 -0.43%

Spirit Airlines fell 2% after the airline said it will consider JetBlue’s new $3.6 billion cash takeover offer. JetBlue’s proposal comes after Spirit agreed to be bought by Frontier Airlines for $2.9 billion. JetBlue fell more than 8% and Frontier fell as much as 11%.

Ticker Security Last Exchange Change %
SAVE SPIRIT AIRLINES INC. 26.28 -0.64 -2.38%
JBLU JETBLUE AIRWAYS CORP. 12.45 -1.19 -8.72%
ULCC FRONTIER GROUP HOLDINGS 10.61 -1.31 -10.99%

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In Asia, the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo sank 1.58%, the Hang Seng in Hong Kong fell 1.8% and China’s Shanghai Composite Index was little changed. In Europe, the Stoxx 50 fell 2.3%, the CAC40 tumbled 2.2% and the DAX dipped 1.8%.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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