U.S. stocks fell on Tuesday, with tech names dragging down the Nasdaq and the broader markets as Treasury yields traded near three-month highs.
The Nasdaq Composite was down 2%, and the S&P 500 shed 1.8.6%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 450 points, or about 1.3%.
The 10-year Treasury yield continued its speedy climb on Tuesday, rising as high as 1.558% as investors bet the Fed would carry through on its promise to curb its emergency bond-buying stimulus as inflation jumps. The 10-year yield has reversed dramatically to the highest levels since June since the Fed signaled last week it would taper its $120 billion in monthly bond purchases “soon.”
The 10-year rate was as low as 1.29% at one point last week and was as low as 1.13% as recently as August. The 30-year Treasury yield has also been on the move, topping 2%.
“The market’s been steadily coming around to the reality that yields were awfully low relative to the fundamentals. Now the Fed is shifting, and everybody’s shifting their positions, all at once, as we tend to do,” said Kathy Jones, chief fixed income strategist at the Schwab Center for Financial Research.
Tech shares were dropping in morning trading as a rapid rise in rates makes their future cash flows less valuable, and in turn makes the popular stocks appear overvalued. Higher rates also hinder tech companies’ ability to fund their growth and buy back stock.
Facebook and Alphabet shares lost roughly 3% in morning trading, while Amazon dropped more than 2%. Large chip stocks struggled, with Nvidia sliding more than 3%.
The drop in tech dragged down sentiment on the markets though there were pockets of strength. Energy stocks like Exxon rose in early trading as WTI crude topped $76 a barrel. Shares of Ford rose 1.4% after the company announced plans to build new production facilities in the U.S.
“I’m having actually a little deja vu to last fall, if you remember last September when we saw interest rates move a little bit and the reaction in tech,” said Jeff Kilburg, the chief investment officer at Sanctuary Wealth. “And the selling pressure in tech really was a catalyst last fall for the reflation and rotation trade, and again here we are.”
Also weighing on sentiment was a budget showdown in Washington. Senate Republicans blocked a House-passed bill Monday that would have funded the government into December and suspended the debt ceiling until December of 2022. Congress must approve government funding by Friday to avoid a shutdown, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned Congress in a letter on Tuesday that lawmakers need to raise the debt limit by Oct. 18 to avoid a government default.
Traders will be watching testimony from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell to the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday. In prepared remarks, the central bank chief said that inflation could persist longer-than-expected.
“Inflation is elevated and will likely remain so in coming months before moderating,” Powell said. “As the economy continues to reopen and spending rebounds, we are seeing upward pressure on prices, particularly due to supply bottlenecks in some sectors. These effects have been larger and longer lasting than anticipated, but they will abate, and as they do, inflation is expected to drop back toward our longer-run 2 percent goal.”
The central bank indicated last week that it was ready to begin “tapering” — the process of slowly pulling back the stimulus they’ve provided during the pandemic. The Fed left rates unchanged but penciled in possibly one interest rate hike in 2022, followed by three apiece in the 2023 and 2024.
Thursday marks the final day of trading of September and the third quarter. The Dow is down 1.4% for the month, and the S&P 500 is off by 1.8%. The Nasdaq Composite has lost 1.9% in September.
The Covid-19 delta variant, the Federal Reserve’s tapering plan and inflation have worried investors. However, the Dow is still up nearly 14% year to date despite the weakness in September. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq are also sharply higher.
— with reporting from CNBC’s Patti Domm.