The S&P 500 dipped on Thursday, continuing its volatile run in March as the rally to record highs took a pause with investors reassessing the growth picture.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 120 points, while the S&P 500 dipped 0.2%, falling for a third straight day. The Nasdaq Composite fell 1.3% as Big Tech came under pressure again.
Oil prices fell about 4% Thursday as demand concerns rekindled with fresh coronavirus pandemic lockdowns. The S&P 500 energy sector slid more than 2%.
The market weakness came as Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell hinted at one day starting to remove the stimulus that has boosted the market during the pandemic.
“As we make substantial further progress toward our goals, we’ll gradually roll back the amount of Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities we’ve bought,” Powell told NPR’s “Morning Edition.” “We will very gradually over time and with great transparency, when the economy has all but fully recovered, we will be pulling back the support that we provided during emergency times.”
The three major averages are all on track to post a losing week, with the S&P 500 and the Dow falling 1% each. The Nasdaq has fallen more than 2% this week. The S&P 500 and the blue-chip Dow hit their record highs last week.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq has been the relative underperformer with a flat return this year, compared to the S&P 500’s 3% rise. Some investors have been taking profits in their growth winners which led the market’s rebound from the pandemic losses last year.
“The weakness in technology stocks is undeniable, but it likely won’t be a straight line down for the sector and there will be zigs and zags along the way,” said David Bahnsen, chief investment officer at The Bahnsen Group. “Tech stock valuations are too high and are screaming for a correction.”
Pressure on equities came even as bond yields continued to decline from recent highs. The 10-year Treasury yield dipped 2 basis points to below 1.6%, falling for a fourth day after the rate hit a 14-month high last week.
Investors pored over a better-than-expected reading on weekly jobless claims. The Labor Department said first-time claims for unemployment insurance totaled 684,000 for the week ended March 20, lower than an estimate of 735,000 from economists surveyed by Dow Jones.
“The signs of strength from today’s jobless claims read may actually have a perverse effect on the broader market,” said Mike Loewengart, managing director of investment strategy at E-Trade. “Meaning that if we continue to see the labor market make strides, this could translate into pressure on equities and on the Fed to reassess its accommodative stance.”