Wall Street plunges as investors seek safety

A screen above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shows the closing number of the Dow Jones industrial average

A screen above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shows the closing number of the Dow Jones industrial average Credit AP

The S&P 500 and tech-heavy Nasdaq joined in Wednesday's carnage, falling 3.3 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively.

Alec Young, managing director of global markets research at FTSE Russell, said investors fear that rising interest rates and growing expenses are going to erode company profits next year.

Shares in CSL, which held up the market on Wednesday, have fallen about 1.5 per cent, while Cochlear Limited has lost more than 2 per cent.

Shares in Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google's parent company Alphabet - the so-called "Faang" stocks that have driven U.S. markets to all-time highs recently - all fell in NY trading.

Just a day before the start of America's third-quarter earnings season, signs are mounting that companies might not be able to deliver the runaway growth that's bolstered equities so far in 2018.

The benchmark S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell almost 1.5 percent and at the day's low had retreated 3.7 percent and 3.6 percent, respectively, from their all-time highs.

YIELDS: The biggest driver for the market over the last week has been interest rates, which began spurting higher following several encouraging reports on the economy. Stocks had come close to big drops in the last few days, but each time they recovered some of their losses. The stock fell 16.8 per cent to 49 cents. In Australia, the benchmark ASX 200 dropped 2 per cent on opening to 5,926.

Heavyweights Apple shed 1.6 percent and Amazon.com fell 2.5 percent.

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USA stocks plunged Wednesday as investors, fearful that rising interest rates and trade tensions could hurt company profits, ramped up their selling of high-flying technology and internet stocks. Amazon skidded 6.2 per cent to $1,755.25 and Alphabet, Google's parent company, gave up 4.6 per cent to $1,092.16.

Insurance companies slumped as Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle. Berkshire Hathaway dipped 4.1 per cent to $214.64 and reinsurer Everest Re slid 4.6 per cent to $218.97.

Luxury retailers tumbled. Tiffany plunged 9.5 percent to $111.28 and Ralph Lauren fell 7.3 percent to $118.42.

"The bottom line is that among the sector bifurcation, the Small Cap unwind, the surge in rates and the spiking U.S. Dollar (all of which we've touched on lately), there is plenty to push the "market" around", writes Instinet's Frank Cappelleri. Higher rates can also slow economic growth, making it more expensive for businesses to borrow and for consumers to spend. The Fed has predicted that unemployment will remain below 4 percent through 2020 and inflation is expected to track around 2 percent, conditions that Federal Reserve chief Jerome H. Powell called "remarkably positive".

The retreat on Wall Street was led by technology stocks, which dropped 2.33 percent, and the trade-sensitive industrial stocks that fell 2.22 percent.

The S&P 500 posted 12 new 52-week highs and 47 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 12 new highs and 227 new lows.

Meanwhile struggling retailer Sears was in focus as the Wall Street Journal reported that it was preparing to file for bankruptcy. The stock fell 16.8 percent to 49 cents. It was more than $40 five years ago.

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