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Inflation Concerns Weigh on S&P 500 (Down 0.3%) as Producer Prices Heat Up

Analyst Team trader
Updated 14 Mar 2024

Market participants navigated a choppy session on Thursday as the S&P 500 (^GSPC) edged down by 0.3%, mirroring a cautious sentiment that also swept through the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI), which declined by an equivalent 0.35%. The Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC) managed to stay almost flat on the day through midday, showing resilience amidst a turbulent market environment before dropping along with its' peers to move into the final period of the day 0.3% off where it began.

Tech sector stock prices reflected the broader market's hesitation, with notable companies like Nvidia (NVDA) down 3.5% and Tesla (TSLA) retreating almost 5%, causing some concern amongst investors about near-term growth prospects. It could have been a worse day, as each of the key indices pushed hard into the close, reducing daily losses by half of what it appeared just 15 minutes before.


Amidst these stock fluctuations, key economic data emerged as a potential catalyst for future market movements. The Producer Price Index (PPI) for February provided a hotter-than-anticipated reading, rising by 0.6% compared to the forecasted 0.3%, suggesting that wholesale inflation pressures remain persistent. This uptick could influence the Federal Reserve's monetary policy decisions as it indicates that inflation has not tempered as much as hoped.

Retail sales data compounded the economic storyline, showing a 0.6% increase in February, which, while positive, missed the mark of the predicted 0.8% rise. These figures serve as a bellwether for consumer spending, a critical driver of the US economy.

In the commodities market, oil prices experienced a noticeable uptick, with WTI crude futures trading just above the $81 benchmark. These movements underscore a volatile energy sector that remains an essential factor in inflation dynamics.

One of the day's dramatic turns came from the auto industry, where Fisker's (FSR) shares took a harrowing dive, plummeting over 55% following buzz around the electric vehicle maker potentially exploring options for bankruptcy filing. This news has sent ripples through the sector and has put investors on edge regarding the financial health of EV start-ups.

Within this landscape of heightened inflation and uneven economic signals, the Fed's path forward appears increasingly complex. The central bank is anticipated to exercise a cautious stance with regards to rate cuts due to the “stickiness” of inflation, potentially deferring any reductions in interest rates until later in the year.

Echoing this sentiment, Stifel’s Lindsey Piegza offered a sobering perspective, expressing scepticism about the near-term prospects of a rate decrease by the Fed, given that the inflation data proved hardier than many had hoped.

Notably, core prices within the PPI, which exclude the often-volatile food and energy costs, edged up by 0.3% on a month-over-month basis, reinforcing the narrative that underlying inflation pressures remain material and may continue to inform a vigilant and methodical Fed approach to monetary policy.

As we push into the final day of the week, the key indices are trying to end on a high, but this remains a day for the bears.

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The AskTraders Analyst Team features experts in technical and fundamental analysis, as well as traders specializing in stocks, forex, and cryptocurrency.