Stocks sank Wednesday after the Federal Reserve gave a cautious assessment of the global economy and said growth in the U.S. has slowed down.
The statement from the Fed smothered a small rally in stocks earlier in the day. In addition to lowering its view of the U.S. economy, the Fed didn’t say if it would respond to those and other concerns by slowing down its planned increases in interest rates.
Investors sold tech stocks, already under pressure following a shaky outlook from Apple, as well as consumer stocks such as travel booking sites and cruise lines. They bought conservative, dividend-paying stocks like telecommunications companies and utility providers.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 222.77 points, to 1.4%, to 15,944.46. A large chunk of that loss belonged to Apple and to Boeing, which gave a disappointing 2016 outlook and suffered its biggest one-day loss in 14 years.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index sank 20.68 points, or 1.1%, to 1,882.95. The slump in tech stocks hammered the Nasdaq composite index, which lost 99.51 points, or 2.2%, to 4,468.17.
Few expected the Fed to raise interest rates this week because it raised them just last month. Sam Stovall, U.S. equity strategist at S&P Capital IQ, said investors wanted the Fed to say that it won’t increase interest rates at its meeting in March and will raise interest rates after that at a more gradual pace. It didn’t do that.
“What the Fed was saying is `No, March is still on the table,’” he said.
Even if the U.S. economy has slowed, it’s been growing steadily for years, while other major economies like China, Europe and Japan have struggled. Partly for that reason, the dollar has gotten very strong compared with other global currencies, making U.S. exports more expensive and imports cheaper.
That’s one of the big problems facing Apple. Tim Cook, chief executive of the world’s most valuable publicly traded company, said the dollar is having an “extreme” effect on its sales in almost every country. Apple also said iPhone sales set another record in its latest quarter, but sales growth slowed. It predicted a revenue decline in the current quarter, something that hasn’t happened in 13 years.
The stock gave up $6.57, or 6.6%, to $93.42.
The dollar didn’t change much after the Fed’s announcement. The euro rose to $1.0907 from $1.0853 and the dollar rose to 118.64 yen from 118.46 yen. Further increases in interest rates are likely to make the dollar even stronger compared to other currencies.
The price of crude rose as investors hoped for cuts in fuel production. On Wednesday, the head of Russia’s state oil pipeline monopoly said talks with OPEC and Saudi Arabia are in the works. Oil prices have plunged over the last year and a half because global supply is outstripping demand, creating a gigantic fuel glut.
Benchmark U.S. crude rose 85 cents, or 2.7%, to close at $32.30 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oils, rose $1.30, or 4.1%, to $31.10 a barrel in London. Oil prices also increased about 4% on Tuesday.
Since the Fed’s last meeting in December, when it raised its benchmark interest rate from record lows, oil prices have plunged, stocks have swung wildly and investors have become more concerned that China’s huge economy, a major driver of global growth, is sputtering.
Aerospace and defense giant Boeing fell after its profit forecast came up short of analysts’ projections. The company also said aircraft deliveries will slip this year. Textron, which makes Cessna planes and Bell helicopters, also tumbled after its fourth-quarter profit and sales disappointed investors.
Boeing stock lost $11.43, or 8.9%, to $116.58, its lowest closing price in more than two years. Textron fell $5.04, or 13.4%, to $32.69.
Drugmaker Biogen rose after it reported strong fourth-quarter results, including improving sales of its multiple sclerosis drug Tecfidera improved. It added $13.39, or 5.2%, to $273.26.
Freeport-McMoRan continued to climb, picking up 45 cents, or 10.7%, to $4.65. The copper and energy company rose almost 7% Tuesday after it announced plans to cut spending and production and eliminate more jobs. Activist investor Carl Icahn also disclosed he bought a stake in the company. The stock traded above $18 a year ago.
In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline slipped to $1.0457 a gallon. Heating oil rose 5.8 cents, or 5.9%, to $1.025 a gallon. Natural gas added 0.9 cents to $2.189 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Gold fell $4.40 to $1,115.80 an ounce. Silver lost 10.5 cents to $14.459 an ounce. Copper gained 2.65 cents, or 1.3%, to $2.064 a pound.
France’s CAC-40 added 0.5%, and Germany’s DAX rose 0.6%. Britain’s FTSE 100 was 1.3% higher. The Shanghai Composite Index slid 0.5%, adding to Tuesday’s 6.4% loss. Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 2.7%, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was up 1%.