Fears of rising inflation hammered Wall Street on Wednesday, with grim consumer price data sparking a sell-off in blue chip and technology shares, while amplifying new concerns about the rebound from COVID-19.
A brutal drop that began early in the week congealed into a third consecutive day of losses. The Dow Jones Industrial Index, S&P 500 Index and Nasdaq all plummeted, closing more than 2% lower on the day. Tech stocks suffering their worst day since March 18, according to Yahoo Finance data, while the Dow had its worst showing since late January.
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With a weekend cyber-attack sharply driving up the cost of gas nationwide — while sparking shortages — investors are growing increasingly restive that price pressures may be rousing themselves from an extended slumber. Mounting signs of supply shortages in the face of surging demand threatening to spur a rapid rise in prices.
Those fears crystallized early Wednesday, after the government reported that headline consumer prices surged by a faster than expected 4.2% last month. Excluding food and energy, prices jumped 0.9 percent in April (SA) and are up 3.0 percent over the year.
The jitters have surfaced as the U.S. economic recovery — hammered by the COVID-19 pandemic — appears to be quickening. A report from the Labor Department on Tuesday showed job openings reached a record high in March, and a separate survey showed a record proportion of small business owners reported job postings that could not be filled last month.
“It’s not a matter of whether inflation is going to be firming over the next couple of months ... it will,” Garrett Melson, a portfolio strategist at Natixis Investment Manager Solutions, told Yahoo Finance on Wednesday.
“The bigger story is whether we’re seeing a persistent and structural shift higher in prices,” he added.
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