Nasdaq slumps as bond yields surge

FILE PHOTO: A view of the exterior of the Nasdaq market site in the Manhattan borough of New York City
FILE PHOTO: A view of the exterior of the Nasdaq market site in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., October 24, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

March 18, 2021

By Shashank Nayar and Medha Singh

(Reuters) – The S&P 500 eased from a record high on Thursday while the tech-heavy Nasdaq shed more than 1% as bond yields hit 14-month peak after the Federal Reserve pledged to tolerate inflation and keep monetary policy loose through 2023.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year notes crossed 1.75% for the first time since January 2020, pressuring high-growth companies including Apple Inc, Facebook Inc, Netflix Inc, Amazon.com Inc and Microsoft Corp dropped between 1.2% and 1.6%.

Tech stocks are particularly sensitive to rising yields because their value rests heavily on future earnings, which are discounted more deeply when bond returns go up.

The blue-chip Dow hit another record high a day after the Fed projected strongest growth in nearly 40 years as the COVID-19 crisis winds down, and repeated its pledge to keep its target interest rate near zero for years to come.

Opinions among the Fed’s 18 current policymakers did shift somewhat, with four now expecting rates may need to rise next year and seven seeing a rate increase in 2023.

“It’s a slight increase in policymakers in thinking that there might be a move sooner which is really feeding that bond market rout and sending the yields higher,” said Fiona Cincotta, senior financial market analyst at Gain Capital in London.

While inflation is expected to exceed the Fed’s 2.0% target to 2.4% this year, Fed Chair Jerome Powell views it as a temporary surge that will not change the central bank’s stance.

A $1.9 trillion spending stimulus sparked fears of rising inflation that triggered a jump in longer-end Treasury yields, accelerating a rotation into value stocks at the cost of high-growth tech stocks.

Economic data was mixed on Thursday with one showing the number of American filing for jobless benefits unexpectedly rose last week. A separate report indicated the Philly Fed business index jumped more than expected to its highest level since 1973.

“If economic data is better than expected before those stimulus checks hit the accounts and the reopening is fully in force, the economy is going to get hotter from there,” added Cincotta.

At 10:04 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 12.72 points, or 0.04% , to 33,002.65, the S&P 500 lost 24.55 points, or 0.62%, to 3,949.57 and the Nasdaq Composite lost 205.08 points, or 1.52%, to 13,320.12.

Bank stocks , sensitive to economic outlook, jumped about 2.4% while sectors poised to benefit the most from a reopening economy including financials and industrials hovered near all-time highs.

In corporate news, Accenture jumped about 5% after the IT consulting firm raised its full-year revenue forecast and reported second-quarter revenue above analysts’ estimates, as more businesses used its digital services to shift operations to the cloud.

Dollar General Corp dropped 4.5% after the company forecast annual same-store sales and profit below estimates, indicating the pandemic-fueled rush for lower-priced groceries was waning faster than expected.

The so-called meme stock AMC Entertainment rose 2.6% after the movie theater operator said it would have 98% of its U.S. locations open from Friday.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers by 1.9-to-1 on the NYSE and the Nasdaq.

The S&P 500 posted 44 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 118 new highs and 22 new lows.

(Reporting by Shashank Nayar in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Maju Samuel)