Stocks close lower as recession angst dashes hope of year-end rally

Traders work on the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, US, December 14, 2022.

andrew kelly | Reuters

Stocks fell Monday as recession fears mounted and investors worried time is running out for a year-end rally.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 162.92 points, or 0.49%, to close at 32,757.54. The S&P 500 fell 0.90% to 3,817.66, and the Nasdaq Composite shed 1.49% to 10,546.03, weighed down by shares of Amazon, which slipped 3.35%.

Monday’s close marked the fourth consecutive day of losses for all three averages.

The moves followed another down week for stocks after the Federal Reserve delivered a 50 basis point short-term interest rate hike and signaled higher-for-longer rates. Fears that the central bank will push the US economy into a recession increased as policymakers upped their forecast for future hikes above previous expectations, saying they now expect to increase rates to 5.1%.

“As we near the end of December, investors are still waiting on that Santa Claus Rally, with stocks coming off back-to-back down weeks for the first time since September,” said Chris Larkin, managing director of trading at E*Trade from Morgan Stanley. “Data showing inflation cooling may have given the market a short-lived boost, but the Fed standing firm with Powell driving home the point that rates could remain elevated for quite a while likely grounded some investors.”

Other central banks are also in hawkish modes, adding to investor worries of global recession. The European Central Bank last week hiked rates and said it sees more significant increases ahead. The Bank of Japan is also potentially reconsidering its 2% inflation target and may start to boost rates soon.

Stocks are set to round out a dismal monthly performance in December after two consecutive negative weeks. So far, the Dow is set to end the month 5.3% lower, and the S&P 500 is down 6.4% in the same timeframe. The Nasdaq Composite is on track to decline 8% this month.

Investors will also be watching for a few earnings reports due later in the week. FedEx and Nike are both scheduled to report earnings results on Tuesday after market close. As recession fears mount, earnings results will become more of a focus.

“Rates and inflation may have peaked but we see that as a warning sign for profitability, a reality we believe is still underappreciated but can no longer be ignored,” wrote Michael Wilson, equity strategist at Morgan Stanley, in a Monday note.

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