U.S. stocks fell Wednesday as investors eyed more Western sanctions against Russia and digested hawkish remarks from key monetary policymakers. These suggested that more members of the Federal Reserve were open to moving aggressively to raise interest rates and bring down demand and persistently elevated levels of inflation.
The S&P 500 dropped, adding to losses after the blue-chip index ended Tuesday’s session lower by 1.3%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and Nasdaq also extended declines. In the bond market, the benchmark 10-year Treasury yield rose to top 2.6%, marking its highest level since May 2019.
Developments on Russia’s war in Ukraine and the Western response remained in focus Wednesday as the U.S., European Union and Group of Seven readied another round of sanctions on the Kremlin. The U.S. is expected to add penalties to more Russian government officials and family members, and Russian-owned enterprises and financial institutions.
Meanwhile, hawkish commentary from Federal Reserve officials also knocked U.S. equities from their latest march higher and send Treasury yields spiking.
Namely, Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard said Tuesday that the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) was “prepared to take stronger action” should already elevated indicators of inflation rates and expectations warrant such moves.
Speaking in a webcast, Brainard suggested this could include aggressive interest rate hikes and a much quicker drawdown of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet — which has thus far ballooned to nearly $9 trillion — than in previous periods.
“Given that the recovery has been considerably stronger and faster than in the previous cycle, I expect the balance sheet to shrink considerably more rapidly than in the previous recovery, with significantly larger caps and a much shorter period to phase in the maximum caps compared with 2017–19,” Brainard said. She noted the process of reducing the Fed’s balance sheet holdings, or beginning quantitative tightening, could begin as soon as the Fed’s next meeting in May.
Other Fed members…