Wall Street loses ground, extending a recent losing streak

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NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks fell in afternoon trading on Wall Street Monday as investors brace for higher interest rates from central banks to fight inflation.

The S&P 500 fell 0.5% as of 12:15 p.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 36 points, or 0.1%, to 32,882 and the Nasdaq fell 1.1%. Small company stocks also fell. The Russell 2000 slipped 0.9%.

Every major index is coming off of two weeks of losses. Markets have been slumping as hopes for a gentler Federal Reserve vanish amid stubbornly hot inflation. The Federal Reserve last week raised its forecast of how long interest rates have to stay elevated to cool inflation that has been hurting businesses and threatening spending. The European Central Bank also warned that more rate hikes are coming.

Technology stocks were among the biggest losers. Microsoft fell 1.5% and Apple fell 1.3%.

Facebook’s parent company fell 2.9% after the European Union accused the company of breaching antitrust rules by distorting competition in the online classified ads business.

U.S. crude oil prices rose 2.1%. European markets gained ground and Asian markets closed lower overnight.

Treasury yields gained ground. The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which influences mortgage rates, rose to 3.59% from 3.49% late Friday.

Investors have several economic reports to review this week as they try to determine the continuing path of inflation.

The National Association of Realtors delivers its November tally of U.S. home sales Wednesday. Home sales have been falling, but prices in the housing market have remained strong.

The Conference Board will release its consumer confidence report for December on Wednesday. Consumer confidence and spending has been another strong area of the economy, but inflation is starting to put a tighter squeeze on consumers.

The government will release a closely watched monthly snapshot of consumer spending on Friday, the personal consumption expenditure price index for November. The report is monitored by the Fed as a barometer of inflation.

The Fed ended its final meeting of the year last week by raising its short-term interest rate by half a percentage point, its seventh straight increase this year. More importantly, it signaled that it may have to maintain high interest rates longer than Wall Street had been anticipating in order to tame inflation.

The federal funds rate stands at a range of 4.25% to 4.5%, the highest level in 15 years. Fed policymakers forecast that the central bank’s rate will reach a range of 5% to 5.25% by the end of 2023. Their forecast doesn’t call for a rate cut before 2024.

Inflation is showing signs of easing, but at a relatively slow pace. The Fed’s aggressive policy risks hitting the brakes on the economy too hard, while at the same time economic growth is already slowing because of pressure from inflation. That could result in a recession, which analysts expect in some form within 2023, though the severity and duration is difficult to forecast.

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