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Why did the stock market fall? Dow finishes nearly 1,000 points lower in worst day since October 2020

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U.S. stocks fell sharply Friday, as investors continued to weigh hawkish comments on interest rates by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell a day earlier, as well as a fresh batch of corporate earnings that largely disappointed.

How are stocks trading?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
-2.01%

was down 521 points, or 1.5%, at 34,272, after falling nearly 638 points at its session low.

The S&P 500
SPX,
-2.07%

lost 70 points, or 1.6%, to 4,323, and was on track for a third straight weekly fall.

The Nasdaq Composite
COMP,
-2.03%

shed 196 points, or 1.5%, to trade at 12,979.

On Thursday, the Dow shed 368.03 points, or 1.1%, reversing a gain of as much as 331.43 points in intraday trading. The more-than 700-point intraday swing was its biggest since March 8, according to Dow Jones Market Data. The S&P 500 fell 1.5%, while the Nasdaq Composite slumped 2.1%.

What’s driving the market?

Stock-market weakness picked up Friday where Thursday’s selloff left off, when equities tumbled into the afternoon after Powell added his support for moving faster on raising interest rates to cool inflation, measures that would include a possible 50 basis point interest rate hike in May.

“It would seem investors have been too complacent about the upcoming [Fed] meeting, which will need to change,” said Michael Kramer, founder of Mott Capital, in a note.

The Cboe Volatility Index
VIX,
+16.93%
,
an options-based measure of expected volatility over the next 30 days, had been too low heading into the May 3-4 Federal Open Market Committee, or FOMC, meeting, Kramer said. It rose Thursday and was up another 9% at 24.76 on Friday, moving above its long-term average just below 20.

Powell’s remarks appear to make a half percentage point rate hike the base case, with the central bank also likely to announce the beginning of the unwinding of its balance sheet.

“A rising VIX will weigh on stocks,” Kramer said. “If we are entering the time where people start putting hedges back on, the market has further to fall.”

Meanwhile, traders of fed funds futures have priced in a 94% chance that the Federal Reserve will deliver a 75 basis point rate hike in June, up from 70% on Thursday and 28% a week ago, according to the CME FedWatch Tool. 

The benchmark 10-year Treasury yield 
TMUBMUSD10Y,
2.907%
,
meanwhile, pulled back to around 2.909% after climbing about 8.1 basis points to 2.917% on Thursday, the highest since Dec. 4, 2018.

Read: How to invest as inflation, higher interest rates and war roil markets

And some are warning that the Nasdaq is looking particularly vulnerable. The week has delivered some big earnings news for the technology sector, with investors cheering Thursday’s results from Tesla
TSLA,
-0.43%
,
on the heels of deeply disappointing Netflix
NFLX,
-3.03%

results.

“The technical situation looks suddenly far more bearish today [Friday] for equities after yesterday’s powerful selloff, which took the Nasdaq-100
NDX,
-2.04%

below the prior pivot low, possibly opening up for a run into the ultimate pivot low just below 13,000 from early March,” said strategists at Saxo Bank in a note.

“The broader S&P 500 index has yet to capitulate below recent lows but did see a dramatic rejection of the attempt to trade above the 200-day moving average yesterday,” they said.

All 11 major S&P 500 sectors fell Friday, with healthcare stocks dropping the most after a downbeat profit forecast from HCA Healthcare Inc.
HCA,
-18.84%

sent its shares tumbling. Other hospital operators, including Tenet Healthcare Corp.
THC,
-12.96%
,
Community Health Systems Inc.
CYH,
-17.19%

and Universal Health Services
UHS,
-12.13%

also fell between 10.4% and 13.2%.

However, of the 99 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings for the first quarter, 77.8% of them have beat market expectations. Typically, 66% of companies beat estimates, according to Refinitiv data.

Next week will mark another big week for earnings, with 558 companies reporting, Saxo noted. “It is the big test of companies’ ability to pass on costs to their customers,” they said.

Investors may also be skittish ahead of the final round of France’s presidential election on Sunday. An upset victory by far-right candidate Marine Le Pen over incumbent Francois Macron would likely spark market volatility, analysts said.

See: Here’s how markets are positioned for Sunday’s presidential election in France between Macron and Le Pen

What companies are in focus?

HCA shares were down 18.6%, on pace for their largest percentage decrease since March 16, 2020, when they fell 19.02%, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

Gap Inc.
GPS,
-19.51%

stock tumbled nearly 20%, following a bigger-than-expected drop in sales and as the retailer announced the depature of Old Navy CEO Nancy Green.

Shares of Qualtrics International Inc.
XM,
-9.61%

fell 7.6% after the experience-management software company reported fiscal first-quarter forecast-beating revenue.

Snap Inc.
SNAP,
-2.45%

shares lost 0.7% after the social media group reported quarterly revenue that fell short of Wall Street’s expectations.

Shares of American Express Co.
AXP,
-1.71%

fell 0.8% after topping earnings expectations Friday amid a continued rebound in travel and strong spending trends among younger consumers.

Verizon Communications Inc.
VZ,
-5.63%

fell after its earnings report showed a net loss of postpaid phone subscribers in its latest quarter, calling out “competitive dynamics within the industry,” though it said it had its best quarter of broadband net additions in more than a decade.

How are other assets trading?

The ICE U.S. Dollar Index 
DXY,
+0.57%

 rose 0.7% to trade at its highest since March 2020.

Bitcoin 
BTCUSD,
-3.13%

fell 2.4% to trade near $39,500.

The Stoxx Europe 600
SXXP,
-1.79%

dropped 1.5% while London’s FTSE 100 
UKX,
-1.39%

fell 1.4%.

The Shanghai Composite 
SHCOMP,
+0.23%

 rose 0.2%, while the Hang Seng Index 
HSI,
-0.21%

slipped 0.2% in Hong Kong and Japan’s Nikkei 225 
NIK,
-1.63%

fell 1%.

Dow Jones Dives As Bears Maul Stocks On These Fears; Health Stocks Hit As HCA Collapses; 3 Stocks Craft Bases

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