Wall Street slumps to worst day since April

NEW YORK — In the latest example of how good news for the economy can be bad for Wall Street, most U.S. stocks slumped Thursday after strong economic reports raised the possibility of interest rates staying painfully high. The weakness was widespread and overshadowed another blowout profit report from market heavyweight Nvidia.

The S&P 500 fell 0.7% for its sharpest drop since April and pulled further from its record set earlier this week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 605 points, or 1.5%, and the Nasdaq composite slipped 0.4%.

Stocks broadly struggled under the weight of higher yields in the bond market. Treasury yields cranked up the pressure following the stronger-than-expected reports on the U.S. economy, which forced traders to rethink bets about when the Federal Reserve could offer relief to financial markets through lower interest rates.

One report suggested growth in U.S. business activity is running at its fastest rate in more than two years. S&P Global said its preliminary data showed growth improved for businesses not only in the services sector but also in hard-hit manufacturing.

A separate report, meanwhile, showed the U.S. job market remains solid despite high interest rates. Fewer workers applied for unemployment benefits last week than economists expected, an indication that layoffs remain low.

Treasury yields had been close to flat following the joblessness report but turned higher immediately after the report on business activity, which also suggested upward pressure on selling prices remains stubbornly high.

With pressure on inflation coming from both the manufacturing and service sectors, “the final mile down to the Fed’s 2% target still seems elusive,” according to Chris Williamson, chief business economist at S&P Global Market Intelligence.

The Fed is trying to pull off the difficult feat of slowing the economy enough through high rates to get inflation back to 2% but not so much that it forces a painful recession. It’s been holding its main interest rate at the highest level in more than two decades to do so, and Wall Street is itching for some easing.

A hotter-than-expected economy could push the Federal Reserve to wait longer before cutting interest rates, after traders already ratcheted back their earlier, too-optimistic forecasts.


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