Wall Street's main indexes ended modestly lower on Thursday in a choppy session as hawkish comments from a U.S. Federal Reserve official and data showing the labor market remained tight led some investors to worry about more aggressive interest rate hikes.
St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said the central bank needs to keep raising rates given that its tightening so far "had only limited effects on observed inflation."
Stocks have retreated in recent days after a strong month-long rally spurred by softer-than-expected inflation reports that raised hopes the Fed would temper its rate hikes.
"The Fed is still talking up, generally, interest rates," said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Investment Management in Chicago. "There might be some disagreement about the pace. But interest rates are not coming down anytime soon.”
Stocks reduced losses late in the session but the major indexes still ended in negative territory.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI) fell 7.51 points, or 0.02%, to 33,546.32, the S&P 500 (.SPX) lost 12.23 points, or 0.31%, to 3,946.56 and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) dropped 38.70 points, or 0.35%, to 11,144.96.
Data showed the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell last week, suggesting the labor market remained tight. A report on Wednesday detailed strong retail sales growth last month, indicating the economy has weathered rate hikes.
Bets from traders of a 75 basis point hike at the Fed's next meeting climbed to 19% from about 15% a day earlier, according to the CME Group's FedWatch tool. Most investors still expect a 50 basis point increase.
Cisco Systems (CSCO.O) shares rose 5% after the company raised its full-year revenue and profit forecast with supply chain hurdles easing. The stock helped the S&P 500 information technology sector (.SPLRCT) log a 0.2% gain.
Most S&P 500 sectors ended lower, however, with utilities (.SPLRCU) shedding 1.8% and consumer discretionary (.SPLRCD) dropping about 1.3%.
In company news, shares of Macy's (M.N) surged 15% after the department store chain raised its annual profit forecast on resilient demand for high-end clothes and beauty products.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 2.06-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.65-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 1 new 52-week highs and 1 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 46 new highs and 169 new lows.About 10.3 billion shares changed hands in U.S. exchanges, compared with the 12.1 billion daily average over the last 20 sessions.