The Market Might Be Losing its Mojo

On Tuesday, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq 100 both sank to their lowest respective levels in three months. What has investors so anxious?

(Photo by Aditya Vyas on Unsplash)

Sign up for smart news, insights, and analysis on the biggest financial stories of the day.

The soft landing faces some hard truths.

On Tuesday, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq 100 both sank to their lowest respective levels in three months. With unemployment still near historic lows and inflation (relatively speaking, on a global scale) off its highs, what has investors so anxious? Well, it’s a pretty long list, actually.

In the Interest of Economic Growth

It’s probably not a coincidence that stocks have finished lower every day since the Fed signaled its “higher for longer” interest rate forecast last week. In an essay posted Tuesday, Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Neel Kashkari posited a “40 percent probability” that the central bank will have to raise interest rates even more to hit its 2% inflation target. And in an interview with the Times of India published on Tuesday, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon fretted that he’s “not sure if the world is prepared for 7%” — and noted that JPMorgan is urging “clients to be prepared for that kind of stress.”

Further dragging down sentiment is waning consumer confidence. Though overall inflation is slowing, most consumers are enduring still-elevated energy prices (oil, after all, just hit $100 a barrel again) and food prices. Meanwhile, US credit card debt just topped $1 trillion, and the housing market is still jammed up. That has Dimon and Kashkari both sniffing hints of stagflation. Oh, and the US government may soon shut down, which Moody’s said Monday would impact the country’s credit.

That’s a lot for Wall Street to swallow:

  • On Tuesday, the Nasdaq 100 fell 1.7% while the S&P 500 fell 1.6%, bringing both to their lowest levels since June. Meanwhile, the Cboe Volatility Index or VIX, aka Wall Street’s fear gauge, climbed nearly 13%, and inched close to its highest level since May.
  • The tech giants that just months ago could lift the entire stock market with their pinkies — Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, and Microsoft — all fell Tuesday (though Amazon and Alphabet are both ensnared in government antitrust battles), and traders poured into short positions on the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100.

Out from Hibernation: “The market is in the hands of the bears right now,” Quincy Krosby, chief global strategist for LPL Financial, told Bloomberg. “It’s a wall of worry, uncertainty hovering over the market. You wouldn’t say that the selloffs have been tremendously dramatic — in fact, they’ve been kind of orderly. But there’s still that uncertainty.” Still, there’s a long way to go to unwind what’s so far been an unexpectedly hot year on the stock market. At the beginning of the year, strategists polled by Bloomberg on average estimated the S&P 500 to sit at 4,043 by year’s end. On Tuesday, it closed at 4,273. If the bears want to drag it down even more, we just ask they remain orderly doing so.