Thursday, 25 August 2016

Wall Street hit as defensive stocks drop ahead of Fed

Wall Street was lower on Wednesday, led by declines in technology and defensive stocks as investors weighed up the possibility of a rate hike in the coming months.

The market is squarely focused on Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's speech at Jackson Hole, Wyoming on Friday when she is expected to give a steer on the direction of monetary policy.

Recent hawkish comments from some Fed officials, including Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer, have raised expectations that Yellen might signal a hike in September.

All 10 major S&P 500 indexes were trading lower. The financials sector .SPSY, which stands to benefit from higher rates, posted the smallest decline, of 0.07 percent.

The bigger decliners were utilities .SPLRCU, consumer staples  and telecom services, defensive sectors that have led Wall Street's rally this year as expectations of a rate hike kept getting pushed out.

While Wall Street is trading near records levels, volumes have been below average in the past few sessions as the U.S. earnings season winds down and as traders avoid major bets ahead of a firmer handle on monetary policy.

"Caution is certainly warranted before Yellen's speech. We know its going to move the market, we just don't know which way," said Matthew Tuttle, chief investment officer of Tuttle Tactical Management in Connecticut.

"The biggest risk right now is that she comes out and makes it look like September is squarely on the table."

At 11:06 a.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 42.35 points, or 0.23 percent, at 18,504.95.

The S&P 500 .SPX was down 4.62 points, or 0.21 percent, at 2,182.28.

The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was down 5.94 points, or 0.11 percent, at 5,254.14.

The technology index , which propelled the Nasdaq to a intraday record on Tuesday, was down 0.35 percent and the biggest drag among the 10 S&P sectors.

Express Inc  plunged 24.7 percent after the apparel maker slashed its full-year earnings outlook.

Garmin  was the top percentage loser on the S&P, falling 4 percent after Goldman Sachs downgraded the stock.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,816 to 968. On the Nasdaq, 1,292 issues fell and 1,272 advanced.

The S&P 500 index showed 15 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 70 new highs and 10 new lows.

Reference: Yashaswini Swamynathan

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