Wall Street down as retailers stoke inflation fears

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FILE PHOTO: People are seen on Wall Street outside the NYSE in New York

By David French and Ambar Warrick

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wall Street benchmarks closed down on Wednesday on inflation fears and supply chain concerns, with investors betting the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates sooner than expected to tame rising prices.

Target Corp was the latest big-name retailer to report positive results, upping its annual forecasts and beating profit expectations, citing an early start to holiday shopping.

But shares of the firm fell, tracking declines in those of peer Walmart on Tuesday, as both retailers flagged a hit to their third-quarter margins from supply chain issues.

Other retailers yet to report earnings traded lower, including Macy’s Inc and Kohls Corp ahead of posting numbers on Thursday morning, and Gap Inc and Urban Outfitters Inc which are due next week.

Some retailers bucked the trend. TJX Companies Inc hit an all-time intraday high after the T.J. Maxx owner reported estimate-beating earnings, an increase in its share buyback program, and forecast it was well positioned to meet holiday-season demand.

Lowe’s Cos Inc rose after the home improvement chain raised its full-year sales forecast on higher demand from builders and contractors, as well as a strong U.S. housing market. Peer Home Depot had also reported strong results on Tuesday.

The Dow was also weighed by Visa Inc, which slumped after Amazon.com Inc said it would stop accepting cards issued by the operator in the UK due to the high fees charged for transactions.

While strong retail data this week showed that a rise in inflation has not stifled economic growth so far, investors feared that further increases in prices could hurt growth and push the Federal Reserve into tightening policy ahead of schedule.

“You’ve got inflation at a 31-year high, but we’re at the lowest interest rates we’ve ever had, so those things just don’t connect,” said Salem Abraham, portfolio manager of the Abraham Fortress Fund.

He added that while supply chain issues would ease as COVID moved to endemic status, the huge increase seen in money supply would ensure inflation would remain a serious problem for years to come.

Contrasting comments from Fed Presidents James Bullard and Mary Daly on Tuesday also brewed more uncertainty in markets.

“The Fed will hold as long as they can … But if (inflation) continues to go higher, and you continue to see inflationary pressure, then it becomes a question of how many and how often will (rates) rise,” said Joe Saluzzi, co-manager of trading at Themis Trading in Chatham, New Jersey.

Strong retail earnings this week will round off an upbeat third-quarter earnings season, which had pushed Wall Street indexes to record highs.

Investors were awaiting third-quarter results from Nvidia Corp, due after the bell. Shares of both the chipmaker and the wider Philadelphia semiconductor index fell on Wednesday but remained just below record highs.

According to preliminary data, the S&P 500 lost 11.78 points, or 0.25%, to end at 4,689.12 points, while the Nasdaq Composite lost 50.81 points, or 0.32%, to 15,923.04. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 208.07 points, or 0.58%, to 35,934.15.

Tesla rose, while peer Canoo gained amid growing demand for EV stocks on Wall Street.

But Rivian Automotive Inc tumbled as investors locked in gains from a near 71% winning streak since the stock’s listing last week.

(Reporting by Ambar Warrick and Devik Jain in Bengaluru and David French in New York; Editing by Maju Samuel and Lisa Shumaker)

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