Wall Street points lower a day after Fed’s rate hike

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NEW YORK — Wall Street is poised to give back some of the previous day’s gains when markets open Thursday, one day after the Federal Reserve raised its key interest rate by half a percentage point as it attempts to tamp down the worst inflation in 40 years.

Futures for the Dow industrials lost 0.5% and the S&P 500 slid 0.6%. On Wednesday, the S&P 500 gained 3% for its biggest one-day increase in two years, while the Dow jumped 2.8% and the Nasdaq composite climbed 3.2%.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Wednesday downplayed the likelihood of bigger interest rate hikes following the U.S. central bank’s biggest increase in two decades, giving anxious markets a boost after April’s slump.

“The Fed continues to try and orchestrate a soft landing while tackling high levels of inflation,” said David Chao of Invesco in a report.

The Fed raised its key rate to a range of 0.75% to 1%, the highest point since the coronavirus pandemic struck two years ago. That increase, double its usual rate hike, follows the central bank’s quarter-point increase in March.

Powell’s comments appeared to be aimed at easing fears the Fed, which was accused of reacting too slowly as inflation surged last year, might be headed for an unusually large rate hike of three-quarters of a percentage point at its June meeting.

Investors worry about whether the Fed can extinguish inflation without pushing the economy into a downturn.

The Fed announced details of how it will start reducing its holdings of Treasury debt and mortgage-backed securities. The central bank has been buying bonds to pump money into the financial system and push down long-term interest rates.

London and Frankfurt opened higher on their first trading day since Powell’s comments. Shanghai and Sydney advanced while Hong Kong ended lower. Markets in Japan and South Korea were closed for holidays.

Also Thursday, the Bank of England raised its key interest rate to the highest level in 13 years, its fourth rate hike since December as U.K. inflation runs at 30-year highs. Its Monetary Policy Committee voted 6-3 to lift the rate that the Bank of England pays other banks by a quarter-percentage point, to 1%.

In midday trading, the FTSE 100 in London jumped 1.6%, Frankfurt’s DAX surged 1.6% and the CAC 40 in Paris added 1.9%.

In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.7% to 3,067.76 while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 0.4% to 20,793.40 after spending most of the day in positive territory.

Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 advanced 0.8% to 7,364.70 and India’s Sensex gained 0.3% to 55,854.82. New Zealand gained while Singapore and Bangkok declined.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude picked up 53 cents to $108.34 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract jumped $5.40 to $107.81 on Wednesday. Brent crude, the price basis for international oils, advanced 81 cents to $110.95 per barrel in London. It surged $5.17 the previous session to $110.14.

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