Dow falls more than 800 points in 7th straight down day as stocks head for worst month since March 2020


U.S. stocks fell Monday following the S&P 500’s worst week since March 2020, as investors awaited more corporate earnings results and a key policy decision from the Federal Reserve.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost about 860 points, or 2.5%, falling for a seventh straight day. At its lows of the day, the blue-chip index lost about 1,115 points. The S&P 500 shed 2.9%. The benchmark is down more than 11% from its intraday high. The Nasdaq Composite declined 3.2%, falling deeper into correction territory.

The market action Monday followed a brutal week on Wall Street in the face of mixed company earnings and worries about rising interest rates.

Monday’s pullback put the S&P 500 down more than 10% this month, on pace for its worst monthly decline since March 2020 and worst January performance ever. The Dow was also headed for its biggest one-month loss since March 2020, falling roughly 8%. The Nasdaq, meanwhile, has dropped about 15% in January and is on pace for its worst month since October 2008 — when it plunged 17.7%.

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), known on Wall Street as the market’s “fear gauge,” hit its highest level since November 2020, surpassing the 38 level at its intraday highs.

The fourth-quarter earnings season has been a mixed bag. While more than 74% of S&P 500 companies that have reported results have topped Wall Street estimates, a couple of key firms let down investors last week, including Goldman Sachs and Netflix.

“What had initially been a stimulus withdrawal-driven decline morphed last week to include earnings jitters,” Adam Crisafulli, founder of Vital Knowledge, said in a note. “So investors are now worried not just about the multiple placed on earnings, but the EPS (earnings-per-share) forecasts themselves.”

Investors are anticipating a slew of high-stakes earnings reports from mega-cap tech companies this week. Microsoft fell 3.7%, Apple lost 3.2% and Tesla pulled back 7% ahead of the quarterly reports.

Only 6 stocks in the S&P 500 traded in positive territory Monday.

Riskier assets are selling off this year as investors brace for the Fed to tighten monetary policy. Bitcoin dropped more than 8% over the weekend, wiping out nearly half of its value at its record high reached in November. The price fell another roughly 4% Monday morning below $34,000, before making up losses.

Investors are eyeing the Fed’s policy meeting, which wraps up on Wednesday. Market participants will be looking for any signals on how much the central bank will raise interest rates this year and when it will start.

The Federal Open Market Committee, which sets interest rates, meets with expectations that it won’t act at this meeting but will tee up the first of multiple rate hikes starting in March. In addition, the Fed is expected to wrap up its monthly asset purchase program that same month.

At his post-meeting news conference, Chairman Jerome Powell also could signal when the Fed will start to unwind its mammoth balance sheet.

Goldman Sachs said over the weekend that it sees risks rising that the Fed could enact even more than the four quarter-percentage-point hikes that the market has priced in for this year. The firm also said the Fed might start running off the nearly $9 trillion in assets it is holding in July.

Investors also monitored geopolitical tensions as Russia built up its military presence at the Ukrainian border. President Joe Biden is set to speak with European leaders Monday amid fears of a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Bond yields have surged in the new year in anticipation of Fed rate hikes, which partly triggered the drastic sell-off in growth-oriented tech shares. While the 10-year Treasury yield was lower Monday, the benchmark rate has jumped about a quarter of a percentage point in 2022.

“The big story so far in 2022 has been the rapid move higher in interest rates, which is prompting investors to re-assess valuations for some of the most expensive segments of the market and rotate into value stocks,” said David Lefkowitz, head of equities Americas at UBS Global Wealth Management.

JPMorgan’s top stock strategist Marko Kolanovic said in a note Monday that the sell-off is overblown.

“The recent pullback in risk assets appears overdone, and a combination of technical indicators approaching oversold territory and sentiment turning bearish suggest we could be in the final stages of this correction,” Kolanovic said. “While the market struggles to digest the rotation forced on it by rising rates, we expect the earnings season to reassure, and in a worst case scenario could see a return of the ‘Fed put.'”

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