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Stocks slip in volatile trading as investors prepare for more big rate hikes

<i>Spencer Platt/Getty Images</i><br/>
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Spencer Platt/Getty Images

By Paul R. La Monica, CNN Business

Welcome to the lazy, crazy days of summer on Wall Street. Stocks fell again Monday in a choppy session. So it looks like investors weren’t completely ready to buy the proverbial dip in the absence of any major news.

The Dow finished Monday down nearly 185 points, or 0.6%. The index closed well off its lows of the day and even briefly moved into positive territory at one point. But investors continue to worry that the Federal Reserve is going to keep raising interest rates sharply.

Stocks tanked Friday, with the Dow plunging more than 1,000 points, after Fed chair Jerome Powell gave an eagerly awaited speech in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in which he talked about the “pain” of rate hikes but indicated the Fed was serious about getting inflation under control.

Investors are now pricing in a nearly 75% chance of a third consecutive three-quarters of a point rate hike when the Fed meets on September 21. Just a month ago, odds of a rate increase of that magnitude were only 28%, as investors started to predict that the Fed would slow down the pace of rate hikes to a half-point.

The S&P 500 fell more than 3% Friday while the Nasdaq, home to many of America’s biggest tech stocks, fell 4%. The S&P 500 was down 0.7% Monday while the Nasdaq slid 1%. Stocks are now down for the month of August and are heading into what is typically the worst month for the market.

Some think that the impact of the Fed’s future rate hikes may now be factored into the market. Even if the economy slows, earnings growth could still be decent, albeit not spectacular.

“The pain Powell predicted for businesses and consumers will be real, but modest equities gains can be fueled by slowing earnings growth in the mid-single digits,” said Robert Teeter, managing director with Silvercrest Asset Management, in a report.

But investors are clearly growing nervous again and are starting to shun riskier assets. Along those lines, bitcoin prices briefly fell below $20,000, hitting their lowest levels since mid-July.

Meme stocks GameStop and AMC rebounded though, having both fallen on Friday. Another meme stock, Bed Bath & Beyond, also defied the broader market slump. It rose 6% Friday and built on those gains Monday, surging more than 20%.

In another sign of investor angst, the yield on the 10-year Treasury bond continued to rise, spiking to about 3.1%. Oil prices were higher as well, contributing to inflation fears. With that in mind, energy stocks were the big winners Monday. Dow component Chevron was up nearly 1% while Diamondback Energy led the S&P 500 with a 4% gain.

The change in sentiment on Wall Street has been sharp and sudden.

Only two weeks ago, the CNN Business Fear & Greed Index, which looks at the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) and six other measures of investor sentiment, was showing signs of Greed. The index is now in Neutral mode after recently moving closer to Fear territory. The VIX has soared more than 20% in the past month.

Investors are once again considering all the risks in the market and global economy. It’s not just inflation after all.

“Uncertainty remains high over the course of inflation, energy prices, the war in Ukraine, and economic policy in China, so investors should remain alert to the risk of more adverse scenarios,” Mark Haefele, chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management said in a report. “We see this as a time to be selective.”

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