Dow down more than 300 points, U.S. stocks edge lower on last day of S&P 500’s first losing quarter in 2 years

US stocks fell Thursday afternoon to cap a quarter in which Federal Reserve monetary tightening and the Russian invasion of Ukraine have weighed on sentiment and has put the S&P 500 on track for its first quarterly loss in two years.

How are stock indexes performing?
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA,
    -1.56%
    fell 336 points, or 1%, to about 34,893.

  • The S&P 500 SPX,
    -1.57%
    was down 38 points, or 0.8%, to 4,564.

  • The Nasdaq Composite COMP,
    -1.54%
    shed 107 points, or 0.7%, to trade near 14,335

On Wednesday, the Dow and S&P 500 snapped to a four-day winning streak, while the Nasdaq Composite dropped 1.2% after back-to-back gains.

Despite a recent winning run, it’s been a rough January-to-March period for the stock market. Heading into the last day of the quarter, the S&P 500 had declined 3% — snapping a seven-quarter streak of gains — and the Nasdaq Composite has retreated 8%. That would mark the worst quarterly performance for all three major indexes since the first three months of 2020, according to Dow Jones Market Data, and h

What’s driving markets?

“The worst quarter in two years isn’t so bad as the S&P 500 index is roughly 5% away from record highs,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at Oanda, in a note.

“Wall Street will have a lot to debate over the next few months but a choppy stock market seems likely as no clear answers will be had on when peak inflation happens and how aggressive will the Fed be with tightening until geopolitical risks are resolved,” he said.

Investors were digesting a heavy slate of US economic figures Thursday, including data on personal consumption and expenditures. The PCE core price index, the Fed’s favored inflation measure, rose 5.4% year over year in February, up from 5.2% a month earlier.

There’s room for inflation readings to show “signs of stabilizing and decreasing within the next couple months,” said Andrew Patterson, a senior international economist in Vanguard’s investment strategy group, in a phone interview Thursday. “If they’re still trending upwards towards June, that’s when we’re really starting to talk about all the options the Fed has at its disposal.”

In other economic data released Thursday, consumer spending rose 0.2% in February, below forecast. Meanwhile, data on weekly jobless claims showed first-time applications for unemployment benefits rose 14,000 last week to 202,000.

Investors were also taking note of news that President Joe Biden on Thursday announced more releases from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserves. Biden plans to order the release of 1 million barrels of crude oil per day for the next six months from the reserve, the officials told reporters.

Oil futures CL.1,
-6.46%
fell sharply, but were off session lows. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, including Russia, agreed, as expected, early Thursday to stick with a plan to boost output by 432,000 barrels a day in May. OPEC+ has resisted pleas to more rapidly boost production.

Meanwhile, the US is targeting Russia’s technology sector in the latest round of sanctions aimed at punishing Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine. The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control said Thursday it is targeting operators in the sector “to prevent it from evading unprecedented multilateral sanctions and procure critical western technology.”

see also: Heavy fighting rages near Kyiv as Russia appears to regroup

Which companies are in focus?
  • shares of Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.
    WBA,
    -5.67%
    fell 4.6% after the drugstore chain reported fiscal second-quarter profit and sales that beat expectations.

How are other assets faring?
  • The yield on the 10-year Treasury note TMUBMUSD10Y,
    2,338%
    fell 3.3 basis points to 2,324%. Yields and debt prices move opposite each other.

  • The ICE US Dollar Index DXY,
    +0.58%,
    a measure of the currency against a basket of six major rivals, was up 0.6%.

  • In oil futures, West Texas Intermediate crude for May delivery CLK22,
    -6.46%
    fell 7% to settle at $100.28 a barrel, the lowest finish since March 16, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

  • In gold futures GC00,
    +0.17%,
    gold for June delivery GCM22,
    +0.17%
    rose 0.8% to settle at $1,954 an ounce.

  • Bitcoin BTCUSD,
    -3.10%
    fell about 3% to trade at $45,741.

  • The Stoxx Europe 600 SXXP,
    -0.94%
    fell 0.9%, while London’s FTSE 100 UKX,
    -0.83%
    closed 0.8% lower.

  • The Shanghai Composite SHCOMP,
    -0.44%
    fell 0.4%, while the Hang Seng Index HSI,
    -1.06%
    dropped 1.1% in Hong Kong and Japan’s Nikkei 225 NIK,
    -0.73%
    lost 0.7%.

Steve Goldstein contributed to this report.

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