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Stocks fall into bear market with S&P 500 now off 20% from record

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U.S. stocks fell on Friday, extending losses from earlier in the week that have sent the S&P 500 to the cusp of a bear market and the Dow Jones Jones Industrial Average on pace for its eighth negative week in a row.

The Dow fell 145 points, or 0.5%, with the benchmark losing steam after a strong open. The S&P 500 traded about 0.3% lower, while the Nasdaq Composite dipped 0.5%.

Those moves come after another downbeat day on Wall Street. The Dow and Nasdaq on Thursday dipped 0.8% and 0.3%, respectively. For the week, the Dow is off by 2.4% for what would be its first 8-week losing streak since 1923 as relentless selling has taken over Wall Street the last two months.

“This has probably been one of the most volatile starts to a year where a move in either direction has been at least 1% for the S&P 500 more often than it hasn’t been. That’s not normal kind of volatility to start with,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities.

“The difficult part of that is, because markets are so volatile in both directions, it takes away most of the liquidity. Nobody wants to stand in the way of the market when it picks a direction, so that tends to exacerbate the moves,” he said.

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The S&P 500 fell 0.6% on Thursday and is now about 19% below a record closing high set in early January. This would be the first bear market — defined by many on Wall Street as a 20% drop from a high — since the pandemic decline of March 2020.

The Nasdaq and S&P 500 are on pace to fall for a seventh-straight week. Stocks have been under pressure this week as the latest quarterly figures from big box retailers such as Walmart and Target raise concerns about a weakening consumer base and the ability for companies to deal with decades-high inflation. Target and Walmart are down sharply after posting their quarterly results this week.

“While many cross-currents are causing the current sell-off, the proximate cause of the recent acceleration in the stock declines revolves around fears about the U.S. consumer,” Glenview Trust CIO Bill Stone wrote. “For the first time in the post-Covid period, retailers have been stuck with some excess inventories. Costs due to inflation are also taking their toll on their earnings.”

“Lastly, there is evidence that the lower-end consumer is feeling the pinch from the increase in prices,” Stone said.

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Ross Stores was the latest retailer to fall after posting earnings. The stock was down 20%. CEO Barbara Rentler said that “following a stronger-than-planned start early in the period, sales underperformed over the balance of the quarter.”

Elsewhere, shares of Deere also fell 7% on Friday after the heavy equipment maker reported a revenue miss. However, the company beat on earnings estimates and raised its annual profit outlook.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve has signaled it will continue to raise interest rates as it tries to temper the recent inflationary surge. Earlier in the week, Chair Jerome Powell said: “If that involves moving past broadly understood levels of neutral, we won’t hesitate to do that.”

That tough stance on monetary policy has stoked concern this week that the Fed’s actions could tip the economy into a recession. On Thursday, Deutsche Bank said the S&P 500 could fall to 3,000 if there is an imminent recession. That’s 23% below Thursday’s close.

Stocks have struggled to find their footing for roughly two months. The Nasdaq is 27% below its record and the Dow is off by 14% from its high.

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Correction: The Dow was on pace for its first eight-week losing streak since 1923. A previous version misstated the year.

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