Wall Street sold off sharply on Wednesday as recession fears gripped the market after the United States Treasury yield curve temporarily inverted for the first time in 12 years.
All three major US indexes closed down about three percent, with the blue-chip Dow posting its biggest one-day point drop since October after two-year Treasury yields surpassed those of 10-year bonds, which is considered a classic signal of recession.
“It was all negative and not much positive today,” said Chuck Carlson, chief executive officer at Horizon Investment Services in Hammond, Indiana in the US. “We’re outside of the earnings season and markets are being batted around by news.”
“It’s a reactionary market right now and probably will continue to be,” Carlson added. “My guess is we’re probably in for this until after Labor Day [September 2].”
Wednesday was the first time that yields for two-year and 10-year Treasuries had inverted since June 2007, months before the onset of the great recession, which crippled markets for years.
The US yield curve has inverted before every recession in the past 50 years.
“It could be different this time,” Carlson said. “When you’ve got $15 trillion in global government debt at negative yields, that’s a new animal.”
“Even if it is accurate in foreshadowing a recession, that doesn’t mean it’s coming tomorrow,” he added.
The Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) Volatility Index, a gauge of investor anxiety, jumped 4.58 points to 22.10.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 800.49 points, or 3.05 percent, to 25,479.42; the S&P 500 lost 85.72 points, or 2.93 percent, to 2,840.6; and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 242.42 points, or 3.02 percent, to 7,773.94.
More than 300 of the S&P 500’s components are down 10 percent or more from their 52-week highs, according to Refinitiv data. More than 180 of those stocks have fallen more than 20 percent from their 52-week highs, putting them in bear market territory.
All of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500 closed in negative territory, with energy, financials, materials, consumer discretionary and communications services all falling three percent or more.
Interest rate-sensitive banks tumbled 4.3 percent.
Macy’s Inc shares plunged 13.2 percent after the department store operator missed quarterly profit estimates and cut its full-year earnings estimates.
Rival department store operators Nordstrom Inc and Kohl’s slid 10.6 percent and 11.0 percent, respectively.
A United States House of Representatives oversight panel called on Mylan NV and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd to turn over documents as part of a review into generic drug price increases. Mylan fell 8.5 percent, while US-listed Teva shares dipped 10.5 percent.
Facebook Inc slid 4.6 percent on news that the European Union‘s lead regulator is investigating how the social media company handled data during the manual transcription of users’ audio recordings.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the New York Stock Exchange by a 4.44-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 5.33-to-1 ratio favoured decliners.
The S&P 500 posted eight new 52-week highs and 51 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 23 new highs and 282 new lows.
Volume on US exchanges was 8.68 billion shares, compared with the 7.47 billion average over the last 20 trading days.