U.S. Stocks Fall Ahead of Fed Meeting

U.S. stocks fell Monday, with investors growing cautious at the start of a bumper week of central-bank meetings and corporate earnings.

The S&P 500 dropped 1% in afternoon trading, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 125 points, or 0.4%. The Nasdaq Composite declined 1.6%.

Stock markets have been volatile in recent weeks, driven by signs of softening inflation and hopes that the Federal Reserve will continue to moderate—and eventually halt—its interest-rate increases. U.S. indexes registered solid weekly gains last week, with the S&P 500 adding 2.5%, the Nasdaq Composite jumping 4.3% and the Dow industrials rising 1.8%. 

All 50 of last year’s worst-performing S&P 500 stocks are up this year, notching an average gain of 20% through January. In comparison, 29 of last year’s 50 best-performing S&P 500 stocks are up, posting an average advance of 1.9%, according to Dow Jones Market Data through Friday.

“You’re seeing a lot of them come back powerfully in the month of January,” said

John Quealy,

chief investment officer at Trillium Asset Management. Mr. Quealy said he has recently added to tech positions in some strategies.

Investors are gearing up for another important week of corporate results, with earnings due from more than 100 members of the S&P 500 index. In tech, Spotify and Snap report Tuesday,


parent Meta Platforms follows Wednesday, and the sector giants Amazon, Google parent Alphabet and Apple are all set to report Thursday. 

“The market has had a flying couple of weeks. But as we get closer to the Fed meeting, cautiousness is something that is certainly going to creep in,” said Seema Shah, chief global strategist at Principal Asset Management. “We will likely see Powell re-emphasizing that they are not at the end yet.”

Fed officials are broadly expected to raise interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point when their two-day meeting concludes Wednesday, lowering the size of the increase for a second straight meeting. Officials are also likely to debate how much further they need to go in taming inflation before pausing rate rises.

Despite that, investors remain cautious about the economy. The Fed, under Chair Jerome Powell, is determined to tame inflation, and many believe the Fed is unlikely to quickly begin lowering interest rates as it has done in the past. Some investors worry that sustained high rates could drag the economy into recession. 

U.S. stock indexes have tracked a volatile path higher in recent weeks.



Markets believe that “the bleak period of 2022 could quickly be going into the rearview mirror,” said

Stuart Katz,

chief investment officer at Robertson Stephens. Mr. Katz said that optimism is premature, citing the disconnect between investors and the Fed over when to pivot to milder interest-rate increases.

Shares of several major auto makers fell Monday after

Ford Motor

said it would cut prices and boost production of its Mustang electric crossover. Ford’s stock declined 2.5%.

GE Healthcare Technologies

shares gained 3.9%, on pace to be one of the best performers in the S&P 500, after the company reported its first quarter as a standalone, publicly traded, company.


shares, which have been swinging wildly to start the year, fell 4.7%. Recently, deep price cuts across the company’s U.S. lineup this month sparked a backlash from customers, many of whom paid thousands of dollars more for their vehicles just weeks earlier.

Global bond yields rose, after a surprisingly strong inflation reading from Spain muddied the outlook for interest rates in the eurozone.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note climbed to 3.554% from Friday’s 3.517%. Bond yields and prices move in opposite directions. 

The European Central Bank and the Bank of England are both expected to raise interest rates this week, with policy decisions from both due on Thursday. Inflation in Europe has yet to show the sustained decline that has been witnessed in the U.S. 

“There is an emerging divergence between the Fed and the ECB,” said

Charles Diebel,

head of fixed income at Mediolanum International Funds. “The forward-looking inflation data continues to move south in the U.S. In Europe, it is clear that the data isn’t yet doing the same.”

In commodity markets, oil prices fell. Brent crude, the international oil benchmark, dropped 1.2% to $85.39 a barrel. 

Overseas stock indexes diverged. In Europe, the Stoxx Europe 600 fell 0.2%, led by losses for technology companies.

Asian indexes were mixed, as markets in mainland China and Taiwan reopened following the Lunar New Year holiday. Moves ranged from a 2.7% loss for Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index to a 3.8% gain for Taiwan’s Taiex index.

Write to Will Horner at william.horner@wsj.com and Hardika Singh at hardika.singh@wsj.com

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