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US, world markets rattled by plans for more rate hikes

AP Business Writers

Shaken by the Federal Reserve’s aggressive stance this week on rates hikes to come, U.S. futures sold off sharply, pointing major markets toward another weekly loss.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P each skidded 1.1% before the opening bell Friday.

Shares in Europe and Asia also fell as investors everywhere now fear that the Federal Reserve and other central banks might bring on recessions by pushing rates higher to get inflation under control.

The Fed is slowing the pace of its rate increases but signaled rates will likely remain higher over the coming few years than it had previously anticipated. That has disappointed investors who hoped recent signs that inflation is easing would persuade the Fed to lighten up on the brakes it’s applying to the U.S. economy.

The federal funds rate stands at a range of 4.25% to 4.5%, the highest level in 15 years. Fed policymakers forecast that the central bank’s rate will reach a range of 5% to 5.25% by the end of 2023. Their forecast doesn’t call for a rate cut before 2024.

Many believed that with inflation pressures gradually easing, the Fed might soon declare some progress in their fight and perhaps even reverse course and cut rates sometime in 2023.

The latest wave of selling came after central banks in Europe raised interest rates a day after the U.S. Federal Reserve hiked its key rate again, emphasizing that interest rates will need to go higher than previously expected in order to tame inflation.

Like the Fed, central bank officials in Europe said inflation is not yet corralled and that more rate hikes are coming. The European Central Bank, Bank of England, and Switzerland’s central bank all pushed through half-point rate hikes on Thursday.

“We are in for a long game,” European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde said at a news conference Thursday.

In Europe at miday Friday, Germany’s DAX was down 0.6% and Britain’s FTSE 100 slipped 1.4%. In Paris, the CAC 40 shed 1.2%.

On Thursday, the S&P 500 fell 2.5%, the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite lost 3.2% and the Dow gave back 2.2%. Barring a strong reversal, major indexes will finish with losses for the second straight week.

In Asia, China’s move to relax COVID restrictions has raised hopes for an end to massive disruptions from lockdowns and other strict measures to prevent infections. But signs of sharply rising case numbers have raised uncertainty, with some alarmed over the possibility that the pandemic will continue to drag on the economy.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.4% to 19,450.67, while the Shanghai Composite index ended less than 1 point lower at 3,167.86.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 lost 1.9% to 27,527.12 after a survey of manufacturers showed a further deterioration in the outlook for manufacturers.

The Kospi in Seoul lost less than 1 point to 2,360.02, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 declined 0.8% to 7,148.70.

Shares in Taiwan fell 1.4% and the SET in Bangkok lost 0.1%. Mumbai dropped 1.4%.

The central bank has been fighting to lower inflation at the same time that pockets of the economy, including employment and consumer spending, remain strong. That has made it more difficult to rein in high prices on everything from food to clothing.

On Thursday, the government reported that the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week, a sign that the labor market remains strong. Meanwhile, another report showed that retail sales fell in November. That pullback followed a sharp rise in October.

In other trading Friday, benchmark U.S. crude oil lost $1.79 to $74.32 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost $1.17 on Thursday to $76.11 per barrel.

Brent crude, the pricing basis for international trading, shed $1.90 to $79.31 per barrel.

The dollar fell to 137.13 Japanese yen from 137.81 yen late Thursday. The euro fell to $1.0621 from $1.0627.


Kurtenbach reported from Bangkok; Ott reported from Washington.

Article Topic Follows: AP National News

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