NEW YORK (Nov 18): Wall Street benchmarks ended Wednesday lower on inflation fears and supply chain concerns stemming from retailers' earnings, with investors betting the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates sooner than expected to tame rising prices.
Target Corp was the latest big-name retailer to report positive results, upping its annual forecasts and beating profit expectations, citing an early start to holiday shopping.
But shares of the firm fell 4.7%, tracking declines in those of peer Walmart on Tuesday, as both retailers flagged a hit to their third-quarter margins from supply chain issues.
Other retailers yet to report earnings traded lower. Macy's Inc and Kohls Corp dropped 4.5% and 3.1% respectively, ahead of posting numbers on Thursday morning, and Gap Inc and Urban Outfitters Inc, on deck next week, slipped 5.2% and 4.2%.
Some retailers bucked the trend. TJX Companies Inc gained 5.8%, its highest finish since Aug. 27, after the T.J. Maxx owner reported estimate-beating earnings, an increase in its share buyback program, and forecast it was well positioned to meet holiday-season demand.
Lowe's Cos Inc rose 0.4% after the home improvement chain raised its full-year sales forecast on higher demand. Peer Home Depot had also reported strong results on Tuesday.
The Dow was also weighed by Visa Inc, which slumped 4.7% after Amazon.com Inc said it would stop accepting cards issued by the operator in the UK due to the high transaction fees.
While strong retail data this week showed a rise in inflation has not stifled economic growth so far, investors fear that further increases in prices could hurt growth and push the Federal Reserve into tightening policy ahead of schedule.
"You've got inflation at a 31-year high, but we're at the lowest interest rates we've ever had, so those things just don't connect," said Salem Abraham, portfolio manager of the Abraham Fortress Fund.
He added while supply chain issues would ease as COVID moved to endemic status, the huge increase seen in money supply would ensure inflation would remain a serious problem for years.
Contrasting comments from Fed Presidents James Bullard and Mary Daly on Tuesday also brewed more uncertainty in markets.
"The Fed will hold as long as they can ... But if (inflation) continues to go higher, and you continue to see inflationary pressure, then it becomes a question of how many and how often will (rates) rise," said Joe Saluzzi, co-manager of trading at Themis Trading in Chatham, New Jersey.
Strong retail earnings this week will round off an upbeat third-quarter earnings season, which had pushed Wall Street indexes to record highs.
Chipmaker Nvidia Corp dropped 3.1% ahead of its earnings reported after the bell on Wednesday. The wider Philadelphia semiconductor index ended 0.7% lower after a record finish the previous day.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 211.17 points, or 0.58%, to 35,931.05, the S&P 500 lost 12.23 points, or 0.26%, to 4,688.67 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 52.28 points, or 0.33%, to 15,921.57.
Electric vehicle makers were broadly positive. Tesla and Canoo both gained 3.3%, the latter after forecasting it would start U.S. production sooner than expected. Sono Group NV surged 155% on its Nasdaq debut.
But Rivian Automotive Inc tumbled 15.1% as investors locked in gains from a near 71% winning streak since the stock's listing last week.
Volume on U.S. exchanges was 10.6 billion shares, compared with the 11.09 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.
The S&P 500 posted 41 new 52-week highs and six new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 115 new highs and 244 new lows.