Wall Street bounced off session lows and seesawed on Wednesday after the U.S. Federal Reserve released the minutes from its most recent monetary policy meeting, which showed that while the central bank intends to begin raising interest rates to combat inflation, it will make such decisions on a meeting-by-meeting basis.
All three major U.S. stock indexes spent the session in negative territory, with tech shares weighing heaviest, as investors contended with shifting geopolitical tensions and a raft of data suggesting the U.S. economy is heating up, thereby bolstering the Federal Reserve's case for aggressive rate tightening.
"There are a lot of crosswinds going around with Russia-Ukraine tensions, but from a domestic macro environment, the key variable driving equities is whether the Fed will increase (interest) rates by 50 basis points in March," said Huw Roberts, head of analytics and Quant Insight in London. "The Fed would probably prefer to prepare the market a little bit and one way to do that is a more hawkish set of minutes."
A swath of economic data on Tuesday showed a sharp rebound in retail sales, stronger than expected industrial output and core import prices reaching an all-time high.
"Today's data has come out on the side of the hawks at the (Federal Open Market Committee)," Roberts added. "Today's equity market reaction tells you the data today has the market fearful of a 50 basis point interest rate hike."
The United States and NATO are still concerned about Russian troops near the Ukrainian border, challenging Russia's claim on Tuesday that it was withdrawing troops and questioning President Vladimir Putin's stated desire to negotiate a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 90.29 points, or 0.26%, to 34,898.55, the S&P 500 lost 4.6 points, or 0.10%, to 4,466.47 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 68.48 points, or 0.48%, to 14,071.28.
Among the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, tech shares were suffering the largest percentage drop. Energy was the clear winner, benefiting from rising crude prices due to supply concerns arising from Russia-Ukraine tensions.
Shares of ViacomCBS tumbled 19.1% after the media conglomerate missed quarterly profit expectations.
Short-term rental company Airbnb advanced 5.4% following its better-than-expected first-quarter revenue forecast, driven by a strong rebound in travel demand.
Devon Energy Corp. gained 7.7% after the oil producer reported fourth-quarter results above Wall Street estimates.