US Stocks: Wall Street set to fall on rate hike jitters; Fed minutes eyed

US stocks were set to open lower on Wednesday, signaling a second day of selling on Wall Street as investors feared aggressive moves by the Federal Reserve to tackle inflation, with eyes on minutes from the central bank’s March meeting.

Fed Governor Lael Brainard said on Tuesday she expected a combination of interest rate hikes and a rapid balance sheet runoff, sparking a sell-off that knocked 2% off the tech-heavy Nasdaq.

Megacap growth and technology stocks, whose valuations stand to be pressured by higher bond yields, fell in premarket trading as the benchmark 10-year yield hit a three-year high of 2.633%.

Shares in Tesla Inc, Meta Platforms Inc, Apple Inc, Amazon.com Inc, Alphabet Inc and Microsoft Corp fell between 1.6% and 2.4%.

“The pre-earnings rally has now been somewhat cut short due to surging yields and a very strong dollar,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities in New York.

The Federal Open Market Committee’s minutes from its March meeting, set to be released at 2 pm ET (1800 GMT), could indicate how fast and how far policymakers will proceed in trimming several trillion dollars from the stash of assets purchased to stabilize financial markets through the pandemic.

While estimates of the impact vary, Fed Chair Jerome Powell after the March meeting said the reductions might have the same effect as an additional quarter-point increase in short-term rate.

The Fed minutes today will likely show an even more hawkish attitude by the Fed members. I think they’ll point to a half-a-percent rise next month, ‚ÄĚCardillo said.

Traders now see 83.1% odds of a 50 basis points rate hike at the Fed’s meeting in May.

The CBOE Volatility index, also known as Wall Street’s fear gauge, rose to 23.20 points, its highest since March 28.
US stock markets had a rough start to the year as the prospects of a more hawkish Fed weighed on growth shares, while the war in Ukraine added to investor concerns globally.

Stocks have since rebounded in the last few weeks, with the S&P 500 now down 5.1% so far this year, after falling as much as 12.5%.
At 08:21 am ET, Dow e-minis were down 231 points, or 0.67%, S&P 500 e-minis were down 42.75 points, or 0.95%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 237 points, or 1.6%.

The United States and its allies will target Russian banks and officials with a “sweeping package” of sanctions and ban new investment in Russia, the White House said on Wednesday, after Washington and Kyiv accused Moscow of committing war crimes in Ukraine.

In company news, JetBlue Airways Corp fell 4.1% after the carrier said it made an unsolicited $ 3.6 billion bid for Spirit Airlines Inc, potentially snarling merger plans between the ultra-low-cost carrier and Frontier Group Holdings Inc.

Frontier Group and Spirit Airlines fell 3.3% and 3.0%, respectively.

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