Wall Street stock indices ended with meager gains on Tuesday as a late afternoon rally led by tech companies stemmed market losses after an early slump.
The S&P gained 0.2% after falling 2.2% earlier in the day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.4%, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite closed up 1.7%.
The low open, which followed a long Independence Day holiday weekend, came as the price of U.S. crude oil fell sharply, eventually settling below $100 on barrel for the first time since early May. Bond yields also fell, a sign that traders were looking for less risky assets.
Energy, Industrials, Healthcare and most of the 11 S&P 500 sectors ended in the red, despite late-day rally in tech stocks, communications companies and retailers and other businesses which depend on direct consumption expenditure.
The volatility reflects growing investor concerns about the economy slowing under the weight of soaring inflation and sharply rising interest rates, pressures that could tip the economy into a recession.
“The market really sees slowing growth as the main driver today,” said Paul Kim, CEO of Simplified Asset Management. “So you’re seeing a modest sell-off in risk assets, but a big sell-off in oil, energy, growth-linked commodities, along with a modest decline in yields.”
The S&P 500 rose 6.06 points to 3,831.39. The Nasdaq rose 194.39 points to 3,831.39. The Dow Jones Industrial Average remained in the red, losing 129.44 points to 30,967.82.
Small company stocks also rebounded from a pessimistic start. The Russell 2000 rose 13.57 points, or 0.8%, to 1,741.33.
European markets fell overall.
Stocks remain in a slump that sent the S&P 500 into a bear market last month, meaning a prolonged decline of 20% or more from a recent high. Market performance in the first half of 2022 was the worst since the first six months of 1970.
Inflation weighed on businesses and consumers throughout the year, but tightened its grip after Russia invaded Ukraine in February. The invasion drove up oil prices globally and drove gasoline prices in the United States to record highs. This has caused lower spending by consumers struggling with higher prices on everything from food to clothing.
Lockdowns in China due to rising COVID-19 cases have also compounded supply chain issues.
Central banks have raised interest rates in an attempt to moderate inflation. The Federal Reserve has been aggressive in its move from historically low interest rates at the height of the pandemic to unusually large rate increases. But it raised fears that the central bank could go too far in raising rates and dampen economic growth too hard, which could lead to a recession.
Wall Street has been watching the latest economic updates closely for more clues about inflation’s impact on the economy and whether that could alter the Fed’s stance on rate hikes. Wall Street will take a closer look at the job market on Friday when the government releases employment data for June.
Investors are also eagerly awaiting the next round of corporate earnings to get a clearer picture of the impact of inflation. Several major companies have recently warned that their bottom line is being squeezed by inflation, including spice and seasoning maker McCormick.
Technology and communications stocks turned around and finished higher on Tuesday. Apple rose 1.9% and Facebook parent company Meta climbed 5.1%. Home Depot rose 1.7%, one of several large retailers to gain ground.
Energy companies suffered some of the biggest losses, as the price of U.S. crude oil fell 8.2% to $99.50 a barrel. This is the lowest price since May 10, when it stood at $96.87 a barrel. Exxon Mobil fell 3.1% and Hess 6.8%.
Banks fell along with bond yields. The 10-year Treasury yield, which helps set mortgage rates, fell to 2.82% from 2.90% Friday night. Bank of America fell 1%.