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Stock sell-off set to continue as investors brace for the Fed, Dow futures fall more than 100 points

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Stock futures 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.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost about 140 points, or 0.4%. S&P 500 futures dipped 0.6% and Nasdaq 100 futures declined 0.9%. All three major indexes had been higher earlier in the session.

The early Monday action followed a brutal week on Wall Street in the face of mixed company earnings and worries about rising interest rates. The S&P 500 lost 5.7% last week and closed below its 200-day moving average, a key technical level, for the first time since June 2020. The blue-chip Dow fell 4.6% for its worst week since October 2020.

The sell-off in the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite was even more severe with the benchmark dropping 7.6% last week, notching its fourth straight weekly loss. The index now sits more than 14% below its November record close, falling deeper into correction territory.

The fourth-quarter earnings season has been a mixed bag. While more than 70% 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 forecasts themselves.”

Investors are anticipating a slew of high-stakes earnings reports from mega-cap tech companies this week, including Microsoft, Tesla and Apple. Tesla fell 3.6% and Apple lost 1.3% in the premarket ahead of the quarterly reports.

Peloton shares fell about 1.3% in premarket trading following news that activist investor Blackwells is calling for the interactive fitness company to fire CEO John Foley and to seek a buyer.

Another crucial market driver will be the Fed’s policy meeting, which wraps up on Wednesday. Investors are anxious to find out 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, and might start running off the nearly $9 trillion in assets it is holding in July.

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 finished last week lower around 1.76%, 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.

Meanwhile, investors are dumping riskier assets this year as they 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 5% Monday morning below $34,000.

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