U.S. stocks fell on Wednesday as a deal to raise the federal debt ceiling headed toward a crucial vote in Congress, while unexpectedly strong labor market data initially raised the likelihood of the Federal Reserve hiking interest rates again.
The House of Representatives is expected to vote in the evening on a bill to lift the $31.4 trillion debt limit, a critical step to avoid a destabilizing default that could come early next week without congressional action.
House passage would send the bill to the Senate, where debate could stretch to the weekend, just before June 5 when the government may start to run out of money. Most analysts foresee the bill’s approval.
U.S. President Joe Biden said he expected the debt ceiling bill on his desk by June 5.
“The bond market liked that there was some fiscal discipline and the equity market liked that it’s not going to hurt growth,” said Brad Conger, deputy chief investment officer at Hirtle Callaghan & Co in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.
“I don’t think we could have asked for a better outcome.”
But equity valuations are stretched considering interest rates are high, the economy is slowing and inflation needs to decline further, Conger said.
“It’s going to be a struggle if inflation is not perceived to be ebbing, which is where we are,” he said.
The Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or the JOLTS report, showed U.S. job openings unexpectedly rose in April, pointing to persistent strength in a labor market that suggests pressure on both wages and inflation.
Futures traders raised to 70% the probability of a 25 basis points hike at the end of the Fed’s June 13-14 policy meeting, but that likelihood fell to about 25% after comments by Fed officials who are leaning to what some call a “hawkish pause.” FEDWATCH
Fed Governor and vice chair nominee Philip Jefferson said skipping a rate hike in two weeks would provide policymakers time to see more data before making a decision. Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker also said on Wednesday that for now he is inclined to support a “skip” in rate hikes.
The Labor Department’s closely watched May unemployment report, due on Friday, could be decisive in whether a rate hike is in the cards or not.
The major indices pared losses after the comments by Fed officials.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI) fell 128.69 points, or 0.39%, to 32,914.09; the S&P 500 (.SPX) lost 18.76 points, or 0.45%, to 4,186.76; and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) dropped 47.41 points, or 0.36%, to 12,970.02.
Technology-led gains have put the Nasdaq on track for its best performance in May since 2020, up 5.7%. The S&P 500 was set to end the month flat, while the Dow shed 3.8%.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation said U.S. banks’ total deposits declined by a record 2.5% in the first quarter after two large bank failures.
The S&P 500 financial sector index (.SPSY) fell 1.4%, while banks (.SPXBK) dropped 2.4%.
Advance Auto Parts Inc (AAP.N) plunged 34.3%, falling the most on the S&P 500, after the auto parts retailer cut its full-year forecasts.
Shares of other autoparts companies including Genuine Parts Co (GPC.N), Autozone (AZO.N) and O’Reily Automotive (ORLY.O) fell between 4.2% and 5.5%.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co (HPE.N) slipped 6.1% after missing Wall Street estimates for second-quarter revenue.
Nvidia Corp’s (NVDA.O) shares fell 3.8% a day after hitting a record high as it briefly crossed $1 trillion in market value, banking on the AI boom.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by a 1.51-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.44-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
The S&P 500 posted three new 52-week highs and 22 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 28 new highs and 155 new lows.