Stock markets tumbled on Tuesday as investors slashed their bets on the Federal Reserve taking the brakes off the economy in the coming months, after hotter-than-expected inflation data led traders to expect interest rates will remain higher for longer.
The benchmark S&P 500 stock index fell over 1 percent in early trading. The index has only suffered such a large loss on one other day this year, with bullishness about the resilience of the economy and corporate profits continually pushing stocks to new highs.
Investors still expect the Fed to pull inflation back to manageable levels without inflicting too much pain on the broader economy. But that forecast was put under pressure on Tuesday by a consumer inflation report that showed prices rising more quickly than had been forecast.
The consumer data “came in stronger than either the Fed or the market wanted or expected,” said Greg Wilensky, head of U.S. fixed income at Janus Henderson Investors.
The longer inflation remains elevated, the longer the Fed is likely to push off rate cuts, turning the screws on an economy that is already starting to show some signs of weakness, and tempering enthusiasm on Wall Street.
Stuart Keiser, an equity analyst at Citi, said the inflation data was “not a game-changer” but that it was likely to drive a short-term retrenchment in the stock market as investors dial back hopes for rate cuts. “Today’s print was clearly not a good one,” he said.