US stocks fell on Tuesday, poised to end the month on a downbeat note after last week’s rally.
The S&P 500 was down 0.4% in afternoon trading, a day after US markets were closed for Memorial Day. After snapping a seven-week losing streak last week, the benchmark index regained ground and was on track to close the month with a slight gain. The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 0.5%, while the Nasdaq Composite fell 0.1%.
Tuesday’s session will cap another volatile trading month, during which stocks around the world swung wildly as traders tried to assess the outlook for global economies. In the US, stocks tumbled shortly after May began and continued falling amid a slew of earnings and economic data that came in worse than expected.
Throughout the month, profit warnings from companies ranging from Snap to Target intensified worries about the lingering impact of inflation, and spurred investors to dump shares across several industries.
By mid-May, it seemed the S&P 500 was bound to close in a bear market, defined as a drop of 20% or more from a recent high, before a late-month rally sent stocks higher. The S&P 500 is down about 14% from its January high.
Professional and individual investors alike waded into last week’s rally in the US markets, finding opportunities to scoop up stocks that have seen their valuations fall. However, the issues that sent stocks declining earlier this month have yet to abate.
Many traders remain worried that the Federal Reserve’s plans to raise interest rates aggressively could tip the US economy into a recession. Meanwhile, concerns about an economic slowdown in China and sustained supply-chain disruptions due to the pandemic and the war in Ukraine have continued to weigh on investors’ minds.
“There’s a bit of market uncertainty just about the pretty rapid rally we’ve had, and whether that can be sustained in a world where inflation is clearly still a factor,” said Brooks Macdonald Chief Investment Officer Edward Park.
New survey data released Tuesday showed US consumer confidence declined slightly in May from the previous months.
Crude prices jumped after European Union leaders said they would impose an oil embargo on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, but later pared their gains. The sanctions are set to include a ban on insuring ships that carry Russian oil, The Wall Street Journal reported. They would include an exemption for oil delivered from Russia via pipelines, which make up one-third of EU oil purchases from Russia.
Front-month futures for Brent crude, the global benchmark, rose 1% to settle at $122.84 a barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the US marker, slipped 0.3% to $114.67 a barrel.
Nine of the S&P 500’s 11 sectors were down on Tuesday. Consumer-discretionary stocks were the best-performing sector, lifted by a 3.8% rise in the shares of online-commerce giant Amazon.com.
US-traded shares of Unilever surged 9.9% after the consumer-goods company said it would add activist investor Nelson Peltz to its board and disclosed his fund now holds a 1.5% stake.
The S&P 500’s energy sector is on track to finish May with the largest gain among the benchmark index’s 11 groups, extending a trend that has flourished for much of 2022. But even some beaten-down stocks are set to end the month in the green, such as Netflix,
Robinhood Markets and Zoom Video Communications.
“When the S&P 500 is [close to entering] a bear market that has a big psychological impact on those seeking value,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda. “I think the question repeatedly being asked is, ‘Are we seeing a bottom in the markets?’”
In the bond market, the yield on 10-year Treasury notes rose to 2.842% from 2.748% Friday. Bond yields and prices move in opposite directions.
Bitcoin was trading at about $31,664, according to CoinDesk, rising 1.2% from its price at 5 pm ET on Monday.
Overseas, the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 fell 0.7%, snapping a four-session winning streak, after eurozone inflation rose faster than expected. Consumer prices rose 8.1% on the year in May—the fastest past since records began in 1997—after climbing at a 7.4% rate in April. The inflation report will likely factor into the European Central Bank’s coming interest-rate decisions. Earlier this month, ECB President Christine Lagarde indicated that the central bank could increase its key interest rate in July for the first time in 11 years.
In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index rose 1.2% after the city’s government said a two-month lockdown would be lifted Wednesday. The shutdown, designed to limit Covid-19 transmission, had slowed the Chinese economy and added to inflationary pressures elsewhere in the world by gumming up supply chains.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 1.4%. Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.3%.
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