Wall Street ends lower as economic data fails to ease rate hike angst
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By Sinéad Carew, Devik Jain and Anisha Sircar
June 1 (Reuters) - Wall Street closed lower on Wednesday as investors bet that the latest economic data would do nothing to push the Federal Reserve off track from its aggressive interest rate hiking cycle aimed at taming run-away inflation.
Data showed that while U.S. job openings fell in April, they remained at high levels, suggesting continued wage contributing to uncomfortably high inflation as companies scramble for workers. Also U.S. manufacturing activity picked up pace faster than expected in May as demand for goods remained strong, easing concerns about an imminent recession.
Along with the data, investors were also monitoring public comments from several Fed officials on Wednesday. And a Fed report showed the economy in most U.S. regions expanding at a modest or moderate pace from April through late May with signs the Fed's efforts to cool demand were being felt.
But strategists said they expect the market to trade roughly sideways until inflation slows to the extent that investors could realistically bet on a pause in rate hikes.
"Unless and until we get the sustained move lower in inflation, we can't put that notion of a pause on the table," said Mona Mahajan, senior investment strategist at Edward Jones, who will closely monitor the May jobs report due out Friday and inflation readings due next week.
Investors have been watching economic data closely for clues as to what it might mean for interest rates.
"There wasn't any information to be found in today's releases that's likely to lead the Federal Reserve to become any less aggressive or to tone down its hawkishness in its rate hike campaign," said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist, Janney Montgomery Scott.
Also on Wednesday, San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly said she sees half-point interest rate hikes in the next couple of meetings as the central bank battles high inflation, lifting rates to 2.5% as quickly as possible. This was in line with comments from Fed Governor Christopher Waller on Monday.
Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase & Co JPM.N , described the challenges facing the U.S. economy akin to an "hurricane" down the road and urged the Fed to take forceful measures to avoid tipping the world's biggest economy into a recession.
According to preliminary data, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 31.06 points, or 0.75%, to end at 4,101.09 points, while the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC lost 88.36 points, or 0.73%, to 11,993.03. The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 179.00 points, or 0.54%, to 32,811.12.
Uncertainty about the Fed's policy move, the war in Ukraine, prolonged supply chain snarls due to COVID-19 lockdowns in China and higher Treasury yields have rocked stock markets, with the benchmark S&P 500 index .SPX falling roughly 13% year-to-date.
Stocks may trade sideways until the market has more clarity on inflation, the consumer's ability to keep absorbing higher prices and resulting Fed actions, said Luschini at Janney Montgomery Scott.
"There's nothing imminent, that seems likely to catalyze shedding all the worries that have driven the market down to the levels that we're at right now," he said.
The benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury yield US10YT=RR had climbed to 2.92%, its highest in two weeks.
Late in the session Meta Platforms FB.O tumbled sharply after Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said in a Facebook post that she would be leaving the company.
Salesforce CRM.N jumped after the enterprise software firm raised its full-year adjusted profit outlook and said it did not see any material impact from the uncertain broader economic environment.
Victoria's Secret VSCO.N climbed after the lingerie brand topped first-quarter profit estimates as costs fell.
Reporting by Sinéad Carew in New York, Devik Jain and Anisha Sircar in Bengaluru; Editing by Marguerita Choy
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