By Saeed Azhar and Noel Randewich
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wall Street ended lower on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve’s minutes showed central bank officials were divided over the need for more interest rate hikes at their last meeting.
The minutes of the Fed’s July monetary policy meeting showed most policymakers continue to prioritize the battle against inflation, adding to uncertainty among investors about the outlook for interest rates.
“I agree with the governors that we’re not convinced that inflation is totally in the rear view mirror,” said Peter Tuz, president of Chase Investment Counsel in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“I think the markets will be on pins and needles regarding what the Fed will do all through September and into October.”
For the session, the S&P 500 lost 33.53 points, or 0.76%, to close at 4,404.33 points. The index has now declined 1.9% over the past two sessions, its deepest two-day decline since April.
The Nasdaq Composite dropped 156.42 points, or 1.15%, to 13,474.63, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 180.65 points, or 0.52%, to 34,765.74 points.
Bank shares extended losses, with the S&P 500 bank index <.SPXBK> down 1% and Bank of America leading losses among bigger banks to end 2.2% lower.
Nvidia also reversed early gains to end 1% lower after rising in the last two sessions, as two more brokerages raised their price targets on the stock ahead of the chip designer’s quarterly results next week.
“Investors are starting to take a more sober look at the economic picture here,” said Mike Reynolds, vice president of investment strategy at Glenmede.
Equities have suffered through a rough patch in August, with the S&P 500 languishing near one-month lows as data underscoring sticky inflation and a robust economy fans fears of interest rates staying elevated for longer.
While investors largely expect the Fed’s monetary tightening to be nearing its end, worries linger the central bank could hold rates at the current level for longer.
Target shares gained nearly 3% after the big-box retailer’s second-quarter profit beat estimates.
Walmart ended near flat, reversing intraday losses, ahead of its quarterly results due out early on Thursday.
Walmart is expected to raise its full-year earnings forecast, as U.S. shoppers continue to buy essentials even as borrowing costs rise, lending standards tighten and the employment picture weakens.
Volume on U.S. exchanges was relatively heavy, with 11.9 billion shares traded, compared to an average of 10.9 billion shares over the previous 20 sessions.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 3.36-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.73-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
The S&P 500 posted four new 52-week highs and 18 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 36 new highs and 255 new lows.
(Reporting by Saeed Azhar and Noel Randewich in New York, Amruta Khandekar and Shristi Achar A in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Lewis Krauskopf in New York; Editing by Maju Samuel, Vinay Dwivedi and Deepa Babington)