NEW YORK: U.S. markets were on track to open lower on Wednesday, after a Federal Reserve official’s comments fueled expectations of more aggressive rate hikes and the White House announced more sanctions on Russia.
On Wall Street, futures for the S&P 500 tumbled 0.9% and the same for the Dow Jones Industrial Average retreated 0.7%.
Shares in London and Frankfurt were sharply lower in midday trading. Tokyo and Hong Kong fell, while Shanghai was little changed. Oil prices rose more than $1 per barrel, nearly reversing Tuesday’s losses.
Wall Street’s S&P 500 index tumbled 1.3% on Tuesday after Fed Governor Lael Brainard said reining in inflation that is at a four-decade high is of “paramount importance.” Brainard said the Fed is set to keep raising rates after its March hike, its first in four years, and might decide at its May meeting to reduce bond holdings “at a rapid pace.”
Wall Street is watching for clues as to how sharply interest rates will rise. On Wednesday, the Fed is due to release minutes from its March interest rate meeting.
The White House said Western governments will ban new investmen t in Russia following evidence its soldiers deliberately killed civilians in Ukraine. The U.S. Treasury said President Vladimir Putin’s government will be blocked from paying debts with dollars from American financial institutions, potentially increasing the risk of a default.
European governments have resisted appeals to boycott Russian gas, Putin’s biggest export earner, due to the possible impact on their economies.
“It’s hard to be particularly optimistic” about the war, “but we live in hope,” said Craig Erlam of Oanda in a report. “And it seems investors do too” despite inflation, rate hikes and high commodity prices. In midday trading, Frankfurt’s DAX and the CAC 40 in Paris both tumbled 2%. London’s FTSE slipped 0.3%.
In Asian trading, the Hang Seng in Hong Kong fell 1.9% to 22,080.52 and the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo sank 1.6% to 27,350.30. The Shanghai Composite Index ended up less than 0.1% at 3,283.43 after spending most of the day in negative territory.
The Kospi in Seoul gave up 0.9% to 2,735.30 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 lost 0.5% to 7,490.10. India’s Sensex shed 0.9% to 59,629.07. New Zealand and Southeast Asian markets also retreated.
Traders are pricing in a nearly 78% probability the Fed will raise its key rate by half a percentage point at its next meeting in May. That would be double the usual margin of change and a step the Fed hasn’t taken since 2000.
Higher interest rates tend to hurt stocks that are seen as the priciest, which puts the focus on big technology and other high-growth stocks. On Wall Street, Apple and Tesla were some of the biggest weights on the market Tuesday.
Benchmark U.S. oil rose $1.07 to $103.03 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.32 on Tuesday to $101.96. Brent crude, the price basis for international oil trading, added 78 cents to $107.42 per barrel in London. It declined 89 cents the previous session to $106.64.
The dollar rose to 123.90 Japanese yen from Tuesday’s 123.61 yen. The euro advanced to $1.0918 from $1.0905.