Investors on Monday stood athwart the Federal Reserve’s plans to hike rates this week, yelling “Stop!”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 500 points. All 30 stocks in the Dow fell.
The Russell 2000 index, which tracks the stocks of smaller U.S. companies, fell 2.3 percent. That puts it into “bear market” territory, defined as a drop of 20 percent or more from the recent higher.
The S&P 500 declined 2.1 percent to its lowest level of the year. Each of the 11 sectors of the S&P declined. The Nasdaq Composite fell 2.3 percent, putting it into negative territory for the year.
The Fed will wrap-up its December policy meeting Wednesday. It is widely expected that the central bank will announce a quarter rise in its short-term interest rate target. But investors will likely focus on the Fed’s outlook for next year. Many think the Fed’s policymakers will take notice of recent signs that the economy may be slowing and signal that they no longer expect to raise rates as rapidly as previously thought.
That kind of “dove hike” is not a certainty, however. And it is not clear whether the Fed will back down far enough from its forecast of three hikes next year to calm investors worries.
Although the U.S. economy is still expanding, there is evidence that growth is declining around the globe. And recent surveys of top executives have suggested that business leaders are convinced the ec0nomy will slow and even fall into a recession sometime over the next two years. There is a possibility that this downward spiral of executive confidence could become a self-fulfilling prophecy is businesses cut back on hiring and investing in anticipation of an economic slump.