S&P 500 lower amid interest rates worries

The S&P 500 ended lower on Friday, weighed down by Microsoft and Nvidia as investors worried that inflation and a strong US economy could put the Federal Reserve on pace for more interest rate hikes.

The see-saw session on Wall Street followed economic data this week that pointed to elevated inflation, a tight job market and resilience in consumer spending, giving the Fed more room for to raise borrowing costs.

Goldman Sachs and Bank of America forecast three more rate hikes this year and by a quarter of a percentage point each, up from their previous estimate of two rate rises.

Traders are expecting at least two more rate increases and see the Fed rate peaking at 5.3 per cent by July as central bank attempts to cool the economy and reduce inflation.

"A dark cloud has drifted over the stock market in the last two weeks based on a higher watermark for the Fed funds rate," said Jake Dollarhide, chief executive officer of Longbow Asset Management in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

"The jobs numbers aren't getting weaker, and it's hard to go into a recession with a strong labour market at the same time. That means the Fed could push the button and move rates higher," Dollarhide said.

Microsoft Corp fell 1.6 per cent and Nvidia dipped 2.8 per cent, both weighing on the S&P 500 as the yield on 10-year Treasury notes hit a three-month high.

The CBOE Volatility index, also known as Wall Street's fear gauge, traded above 20 points for a second session in a row.

Of the 11 S&P 500 sector indexes, six rose, led by consumer staples, up 1.29 per cent, followed by a 1 per cent gain in Utilities. Energy dropped 3.65 per cent, with Exxon Mobil losing 3.8 per cent.

The S&P 500 declined 0.28 per cent to end the session at 4,079.09 points.

The Nasdaq fell 0.58 per cent to 11,787.27 points, while Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.39 per cent to 33,826.69 points.

For the week, the S&P 500 fell 0.3 per cent, the Dow lost 0.1 per cent and the Nasdaq climbed 0.6 per cent.

The S&P 500 has gained about 6 per cent so far in 2023, while the Nasdaq has rebounded about 13 per cent following deep losses last year.

Adding to recent worries about monetary policy, Fed Governor Michelle Bowman said the central bank will need to keep raising interest rates until it makes much more progress tackling inflation. Richmond Fed President Thomas Barkin said the central bank still needs to raise interest rates, but that it could stick with quarter-point increases.

Moderna Inc fell 3.3 per cent after its experimental messenger RNA-based influenza vaccine delivered mixed results in a study.

Deere & Co surged 7.5 per cent after the world's largest farm equipment maker raised its annual profit and beat quarterly earnings expectations.

Lithium miners Livent Corp, Albemarle Corp and Piedmont Lithium Inc slumped between 10 per cent and 12 per cent due to concerns about weakness in Chinese prices for the EV battery metal.

The most traded company in the S&P 500 was Tesla Inc, with $42.9 billion worth of shares exchanged during the session. The shares rose 3.10 per cent.

US stock markets will be closed on Monday on account of Presidents' Day.

Advancing issues outnumbered falling ones within the S&P 500 by a 1.1-to-one ratio.

The S&P 500 posted eight new highs and one new low; the Nasdaq recorded 75 new highs and 68 new lows.

Volume on US exchanges was relatively light, with 10.6 billion shares traded, compared with an average of 11.7 billion shares over the previous 20 sessions.