US stocks ready to end 'terrible year' of rate rises and inflation

Stocks notch fourth-worst performance since Second World War

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Wall Street is headed for its worst showing in years as US stocks slumped on Friday, ready to end a “terrible year” shaken by inflation and aggressive responses to rein in costs.

The market sag comes amid slowing global growth, slammed by monetary policy tightening, protracted Covid-19 restrictions in China and an energy supply shock after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

In the US, the S&P 500 index declined almost 20 per cent over the past year.

This is its fourth-worst performance since the Second World War, said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research.

The fall ranks behind the financial crisis of 2008, stock market crash of 1974 and dot-com bubble implosion of 2002.

“It has been “a terrible year,” Mr Stovall said.

The year has been marked by persistent consumer inflation in the US, which hit a 40-year high in June.

To cool the economy, the Federal Reserve embarked on an aggressive campaign to raise interest rates and lower demand.

It swiftly brought the benchmark lending rate from zero to a range of 4.25 per cent and 4.50 per cent, but the moves raised recession fears, as policymakers vowed to stay the course on curbing inflation until the job is done.

About 45 minutes into trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.7 per cent on Friday, while the S&P 500 shed 0.8 per cent.

The tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index slumped around 1.1 per cent.

Tech stock crash

With borrowing becoming more expensive, investments in companies, particularly in the tech world, have suffered.

The Nasdaq, where major tech stocks are concentrated, tumbled by almost 35 per cent this year.

In particular, Tesla shares lost more than 65 per cent of their value, while those of Apple plunged 24 per cent and for Facebook parent Meta, 63 per cent.

The fortunes of their billionaire founders have shrunk as well, by half for Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and nearly half in the case of Amazon's Jeff Bezos.

Meanwhile, the Dow has fallen about 9 per cent over the past year.

The dollar also strengthened this year, hitting parity with the euro for the first time in 20 years.

But cryptocurrencies have been severely hit, with Bitcoin falling from about $46,000 in March to below $20,000 three months later. It is now trading at about $16,000.

'Bumpy ride'

“The good news is that we will soon put the year in the rear-view mirror,” said Art Hogan, an analyst at B Riley Financial.

But 2023 could prove to be a “bumpy ride” for the first few months, he said.

Based on historical precedent, markets risk going even lower, Mr Stovall warned.

Investors are heading into 2023 with most of Wall Street expecting the global economy to “grow below trend, enter a mild recession and experience a bumpy reopening in China”, said Stephen Innes, managing partner at SPI Asset Management.

“These are hardly the things that stock market dreams are made of,” Mr Innes added.

However, analysts also expect the worst of Fed rate increases, which have sent jitters across markets, to be over.

“I think the Fed will be successful and 2023 will feel like a more normal year,” said Maris Ogg of Tower Bridge Advisors.

FILE PHOTO: A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Reuters
Updated: December 30, 2022, 8:08 PM
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