A slide in banks and industrial companies nudged stocks on Wall Street to modest losses Wednesday after an early gain faded in the last half-hour of trading. Stocks championed by hordes of online retail investors, the “meme” stocks as they have become known, were volatile once again.
The S&P 500 slipped 0.2%, erasing its meager gain from a day earlier. The benchmark index's modest moves this week have it on track for its first weekly loss in three weeks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gave up 0.4%, while the Nasdaq held up somewhat better, ending down just 0.1%.
Treasury yields slipped. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.49% from 1.52% late Tuesday. The falling yields broadly weighed down banks, which rely on higher yields to charge more lucrative interest on loans. JPMorgan and Citigroup fell 1.2%.
Several health care companies made solid gains. Merck rose 2.3% after announcing a supply agreement with the U.S. and Canada for a potential COVID-19 treatment. AbbVie gained 1.5% after announcing a collaboration with Caraway Therapeutics to make treatments for Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.
All told, the S&P 500 fell 7.71 points to 4,219.55. The Dow lost 152.68 points to 34,447.14, while the Nasdaq Composite gave up an early gain, shedding 13.16 points to 13,911.75. The tech-heavy index was lifted by the same Big Tech companies that have pushed it generally higher for the last 18 months. Microsoft rose 0.4% and Amazon added 0.5%.
Small company stocks, which have outgained the broader market this year, also fell. The Russell 2000 index gave up 16.63 points, or 0.7%, to 2,327.13.
Investors continue to focus a significant amount of attention on inflation. China’s producer price index, which measures prices of raw goods and services, jumped 9% from a year earlier in May, the fastest increase since 2008 and above analysts’ forecasts. Surging prices for oil and other commodities and manufacturing components such as semiconductors were the main factor behind the jump in producer prices there.
Aside from surging prices of raw materials, fuel and other items needed for manufacturing, factories are struggling to keep up with demand as the pandemic recedes in many places. That has pushed up prices of everything from food to household staples.
Investors will get closely watched U.S. inflation data on Thursday and how it might impact ultra-low interest rates and other market-supporting policies.
The market has been relatively constrained over the last several days and investors have parsed any data to judge whether rising inflation will be temporary, as the Federal Reserve thinks, or more permanent.
The Labor Department's release of the consumer price index Thursday will add to that discussion, particularly since it comes shortly before the Federal Reserve's next meeting on interest rate policy next week.
“Is it transitory, or is the Fed behind the curve?” said Sal Bruno, chief investment officer at IndexIQ. "That is going to be a lot of the discussion tomorrow with people reading into which way we’re going."
Elsewhere in the market, volatility in stocks embraced by investors using online forums like Reddit continued for another day Wednesday. Clover Health fell 23.6% while AMC Entertainment sank 10.4%. Wendy’s sank 12.7% after soaring 25.9% a day earlier.
The original “meme” stock, GameStop, said after the closing bell Wednesday that it has brought on a pair of Amazon veterans as its new chief executive and chief financial officer to aid in its much anticipated digital turnaround. The company also reported a smaller quarterly loss than a year ago as revenue increased. Its shares fell 3% in after-hours trading.