NEW YORK—U.S. stocks slumped Wednesday after the Federal Reserve said it may not cut interest rates next year by as much as it earlier thought, regardless of how much Wall Street wants it.
The S&P 500 fell 41.75, or 0.9 percent, to 4,402.20. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 76.85, or 0.2 percent, to 34,440.88, and the Nasdaq composite dropped 209.06, or 1.5 percent, to 13,469.13.
The Fed held its main interest rate steady at its highest level in more than two decades, as was widely expected from its latest meeting. Officials also indicated they may raise the federal funds rate one more time this year, as the Fed tries to get inflation back down to its target of 2 percent. Fed Chair Jerome Powell said it's close to hitting the peak on rates, if not there already.
Perhaps most importantly for the market, Fed officials suggested they may cut rates in 2024 by only half a percentage point from where they're expected to end this year. That's less than the full percentage point of cuts they were penciling in as of June. That could be a negative for Wall Street, where investors crave rate cuts because of the boost they typically give to all kinds of investments.
Stocks initially held relatively steady following the release of the Fed's forecasts, before sliding later in the afternoon.
“As you move further and further away from the meeting, the message may sink in,” said Sameer Samana, senior global market strategist at Wells Fargo Investment Institute. “We very much expect the markets to be knocked a little bit off their axis by this.”
With oil prices rising and possibly helping to keep inflation high, Samana said he's not surprised the Fed indicated it may need to keep rates higher for longer. He sees few avenues to get inflation down to the Fed's goal without a recession, which would hurt the country but also remove upward pressures on inflation.
Powell, though, stressed that forecasts about where rates and other indicators are heading could change as more data come in. He said because the Fed has already moved rates up very high very quickly, it now has the ability to take more time before making upcoming moves.
“Forecasters are a humble lot, with much to be humble about,” Powell said.
Treasury yields rose in the bond market after the Fed released its projections. They had already been climbing for months after strong reports on the U.S. economy suggested the Fed may need to keep interest rates higher for longer in order to fully drive down pressures on inflation.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 4.39 percent from less than 4.32 percent shortly before the Fed's announcement and from 4.37 percent late Tuesday. It's back to where it was in 2007.
The two-year Treasury yield, which more closely tracks expectations for Fed action, jumped to 5.18 percent from 5.04 percent shortly before the Fed's announcement.
“Future meetings will be a tug-of-war between markets who want cuts and a Fed that is scared its job isn’t done,” said Brian Jacobsen, chief economist at Annex Wealth Management.
“The Fed is projecting it will hit its unemployment rate and inflation targets in 2026,” he said. “Markets are more impatient than that. One year is an eternity to traders, let alone two years.”
High rates hurt prices for all kinds of investments, and high-growth companies are typically among the hardest hit. Big Tech stocks were the heaviest weights on the S&P 500, and Microsoft, Apple and Nvidia all fell at least 2 percent.
Stocks of several companies who just recently sold their stock on public markets for the first time also fell. Instacart dropped 10.7 percent as it gave back some of its gains from its first day of trading as a public stock.
Arm Holdings, another company recently off a highly anticipated initial public offering of stock, also fell. It lost 4.1 percent.
Shares of Klaviyo, which helps advertisers market over email and text messaging, rose 9.2 percent in their first day of trading.
On the winning side of Wall Street, shares of Textron climbed 4.9 percent for the biggest gain in the S&P 500 after it announced a deal where NetJets has the option to purchase up to 1,000 of its Citation business jets over the next 15 years.
Beauty products company Coty climbed 4.4 percent after it raised its forecasts for the year due to strong demand for its new Burberry Goddess fragrance and other products.
In stock markets abroad, the FTSE 100 in London rose 0.9 percent after a report showed U.K. inflation fell unexpectedly in August to its lowest level since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.
Indexes were mostly weaker in Asia after data showed Japanese exports fell from year-ago levels for the second straight month. Exports to China sank 11 percent, as the world’s second-largest economy continues to underperform expectations.
Officials in Beijing acknowledged challenges in boosting growth but told reporters they were confident that a recovery was underway and that they had the capacity to ensure stability in financial markets.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.7 percent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 0.6 percent and stocks in Shanghai slipped 0.5 percent.