World banks are lifting rates higher and markets aren’t yet sure what to make of it

A person stands in front of an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm.
Market board Thursday at a securities firm in Japan. World banks are lifting interest rates again.
(Eugene Hoshiko / Associated Press)
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Stocks drifted to a mixed finish on Wall Street on Thursday as central banks around the world keep cranking interest rates higher in their fight against inflation.

The S&P 500 rose 16.20 points, or 0.4%, to 4,381.89, even though the majority of stocks fell. A rebound for technology stocks helped to overshadow losses elsewhere in the market and keep the benchmark index afloat.

The gains for high-growth stocks also drove the Nasdaq composite to a market-leading rise of 128.41 points, or 1%, to 13,630.61. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 4.81 points, or less than 0.1%, to 33,946.71.


The Bank of England hiked its main interest rate by a bigger margin than expected to a 15-year high. Central banks in Norway, Switzerland and Turkey also raised borrowing rates.

In the United States, meanwhile, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome H. Powell reiterated his belief that inflation is still too high and that further increases to rates may be necessary.

The Fed held interest rates steady at its last meeting after raising rates aggressively throughout 2022 and into 2023 to tame painfully high inflation. Inflation has cooled somewhat since last summer, but the Fed has signaled it may raise rates two more times this year as it tries to push inflation down to its stated goal of 2%.

Powell testified before a Senate committee Thursday, a day after appearing before a House of Representatives committee.

Central banks worldwide have been raising interest rates to make borrowing more difficult and slow economic growth in order to stifle inflation. The strategy risks going too far in stalling growth and dragging economies into a recession. Economists and analysts have been warning that the U.S. could slip into a recession before 2023 ends, but resilient consumer spending and a strong job market have been bolstering the economy.

High interest rates, though, have already slowed manufacturing and other parts of the U.S. economy. They’ve also helped cause three high-profile failures in the U.S. banking system. The banking industry remains under pressure, even after the federal government acted quickly to provide support.


Bond yields rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 3.79% from 3.73% late Wednesday. It helps set rates for mortgages and other important loans.

Stock indexes in Europe fell after the most recent rate increases. Britain’s FTSE 100 slipped 0.8%. The latest interest rate increase from the Bank of England marked its 13th hike in a row in its effort to combat stubbornly high inflation.

France’s CAC 40 shed 0.8% and Germany’s DAX fell 0.2%.

Markets in Asia were mixed. Hong Kong and Shanghai were closed for the Dragon Boat Festival, a national holiday.

The U.S. stock market has been “taking a little bit of a breather” after a five-week rally, said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer for Independent Advisor Alliance. The big focus in the coming weeks will probably be any economic data, including a big report on inflation next week, that could give investors a better sense of how the Fed will proceed.

“The Fed is pretty close to done, if not done already,” he said. “The stock market is in a holding pattern waiting to see new economic data and the Fed’s reaction.”

The Labor Department reported Thursday that the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits remained elevated last week, a possible sign that the Fed’s rate hikes are beginning to cool a surprisingly resilient labor market.


In the housing industry, sales of previously occupied homes strengthened last month to top economists’ expectations for a slide.

Several companies made big moves on a mix of news. Spirit Aerosystems, a major supplier to the world’s largest aircraft manufacturers, slumped 9.4%. It is suspending operations at a critical Kansas plant after union workers there rejected a proposed four-year contract and authorized a strike.

Office furniture maker Steelcase rose 8.1% after reporting stronger financial results for the latest quarter than expected.