Stocks, oil slide as Fed mulls rates and China struggles

By Pete Schroeder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Wall Street ended Wednesday lower and oil continued a downward slide as concerns over more Federal Reserve rate hikes and China’s laggard economy weighed on investors.

U.S. stocks accelerated losses after minutes of the Fed’s July rate-setting meeting showed officials were divided on the need for more interest rate hikes, although “most” policymakers saw fighting inflation as still their top priority.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the day down 0.52%, the S&P 500 was 0.76% lower and the Nasdaq Composite dipped 1.15%. The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 45 nations, was last down 0.86%.

“Markets continue to sell off as the Fed minutes underscore that the economic backdrop needs to pullback so that demand softens accordingly,” said Quincy Krosby, chief global strategist for LPL Financial. “Unfortunately, with prices edging higher and consumer spending still resolutely resilient, underpinned by a solid labor market, the futures market has begun pricing in another rate hike.”

Earlier in the day, fresh economic data continued to point to persistent strength in the U.S. economy, with single-family homebuilding jumping in July and industrial output growing more than expected. That followed stronger-than-expected retail sales data on Tuesday.

The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note jumped up to 4.270% after the minutes, nearing a more than nine-month high of 4.274% touched in the previous session.

“Rising bond yields are putting pressure on equities as concerns start to mount over whether rising rates are choking off the economy,” said Jonathan Linden, U.S. equity strategist at J.P. Morgan Private Bank.

Ongoing concerns about the health of China’s economy also weighed on various market sectors, with oil falling roughly 2% after posting similar losses earlier in the week.

Brent crude settled down 1.94% at $83.24 a barrel. U.S. crude dropped 2.25% to $79.17 per barrel.

China’s new home prices fell for the first time this year in July, data showed on Wednesday.

The Chinese central bank lowered its policy rate on Tuesday, after a long run of weak figures, but investors have so far been unimpressed by the response.

News that a leading Chinese trust firm has missed repayments on dozens of investment products since late last month added to fears the country’s property crisis would have a wider impact.

The dollar rebounded from earlier losses and posted its fifth straight day of gains, with the dollar index, which tracks the greenback against other major currencies, up 0.28% to 103.5.

Gains in the dollar and Treasury yields weighed on safe-haven gold, with spot gold prices falling 0.48% to $1,892.37 an ounce.

(Reporting by Harry Robertson in London and Pete Schroeder in Washington, additional reporting by Kane Wu in Hong Kong; Editing by Mark Potter, Kirsten Donovan and Daniel Wallis)