Jun 17, 2022 - Economy

Stock slump worsens as recession worries grow

Percentage change in select indices since most recent CPI report
Data: FactSet; Chart: Nicki Camberg/Axios

It just seems to be getting worse.

Driving the news: The S&P face-planted by another 3.3% on Thursday, pushing the benchmark index's loss for the week to more than 6%.

  • S&P's 2022 decline is now 23%.
  • This puts the index on track for the worst first-half performance since 1962.

What's going on: It's energy costs. The global surge in prices of crude oil, gasoline and natural gas is deeply unsettling to the world economy — and Russia just complicated matters further by cutting natural gas flows to Europe.

  • But it's also what rising energy costs will do to inflation. (Push it up.)
  • It's how central banks like the Federal Reserve will react to energy-driven inflation. (Push rates up)
  • And most recently, it's what the Fed's reaction to energy-driven inflation will do to economic growth. (Push it down ... potentially way down.)

What happened: Since the most recent inflation report last Friday, so-called "cyclical" stocks — that is, companies whose fortunes are typically most closely aligned to the short-term ups and downs of the economy — have dramatically underperformed the overall market.

  • That suggests investors are getting increasingly worried that the Fed's effort to curtail surging prices will almost certainly hurt the economy, and the profits of companies — like airlines, energy firms, hotels and banks — which fare better during periods with solid GDP growth.

The intrigue: This is a subtle shift for the markets, which have been selling off all year.

  • But the first leg of that selloff, analysts say, was driven not so much by worries about the economy, but by a sharp contraction in valuations that was basically a function of higher interest rates.

What they're saying: "Investors are starting to ask whether the Fed tightening that has affected interest rates and equity valuations is also going to affect future growth in the economy and in earnings," Ben Snider, a Goldman Sachs analyst covering the stock market, tells Axios.

  • "We're fielding many more questions about the earnings outlook [and] the possibility of recession."
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