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U.S. stocks have worst day in nearly three weeks as hawkish Fed speak, China worries rattle markets

U.S. stocks had their worst day in nearly three weeks on Monday as protests in China raised global-growth risks and Federal Reserve officials said more interest-rate increases will be needed to subdue inflation.

How stocks traded
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average
    DJIA,
    -1.45%
    finished down by 497.57 points, or 1.5%, at 33,849.46, not far from its session low.

  • The S&P 500
    SPX,
    -1.54%
    ended down by 62.18 points, or 1.5%, at 3,963.94.

  • The Nasdaq Composite
    COMP,
    -1.58%
    closed down by 176.86 points, or 1.6%, at 11,049.50.

Monday’s declines were the biggest for all three indexes since Nov. 9, according to Dow Jones Market Data. U.S. stocks had notched weekly gains last week for the second time in three weeks. The Dow rose 1.8%, the S&P 500 advanced 1.5% and the Nasdaq gained 0.7%.

What drove markets

Wall Street started the week in a downbeat mood as traders absorbed the impact of unrest in China and assessed interest-rate commentary by a pair of Fed officials on Monday.

St. Louis Fed President James Bullard told MarketWatch that he favors more aggressive interest-rate hikes to contain inflation, and that the central bank will likely need to keep interest rates above 5% into 2024. Meanwhile, John Williams, president of the New York Fed, said that U.S. unemployment could climb to as high as 5% next year, versus October’s rate of 3.7%, in response to the central bank’s series of rate hikes.

Overseas, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index
HSI,
-1.57%
closed down by 1.6% and most equity indexes across Asia also fell, with the exception of India’s, on concerns about unrest in China. Those concerns also spilled over into commodity markets, where West Texas Intermediate crude for January delivery
CLF23,
-0.93%
 briefly fell to less than $74 per barrel before recovering and settling at $77.24 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Meanwhile, copper prices HG00 dropped 1% to $3.59 per pound.

“What people are worried about is the potential for protests in China to spread and whether the population is reaching its breaking point,” said Derek Tang, an economist at Monetary Policy Analytics in Washington. “At the same time, Fed speak is ramping up and the message is there’s more hikes to come. So investors aren’t finding relief.”

Signs that economic activity in China will continue to be disrupted by the protests or by additional anti-COVID measures will likely continue to weigh on commodity prices, analysts said. Meanwhile, concerns about global growth helped to support government bond markets earlier on Monday, when the yield on the 10-year note
TMUBMUSD10Y,
3.690%
briefly traded at its lowest level since October.

The unprecedented waves of protest in China “have caused ripples of unease across financial markets, as worries mount about repercussions for the world’s second-largest economy,” said Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“As demonstrations spread across the country from Beijing to Xinjiang and Shanghai, reflecting rising anger about the zero-Covid policy, a sustained recovery in demand across the vast country appears even further away.”

But the news wasn’t all bad: Reports of strong online Black Friday sales helped boost shares of Amazon.com Inc.
AMZN,
+0.58%,
which finished up by almost 0.7%.

Investors can expect more information about the health of the U.S. economy in what’s shaping up to be a busy week for U.S. economic data: Later this week, investors will receive the ADP employment report followed by the November jobs report. Revised data on third-quarter gross domestic product is due on Wednesday, along with the Fed’s Beige Book report. Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell is set to speak publicly on Wednesday, and a closely watched gauge of inflation is due on Thursday.

Read: ‘We see major stock markets plunging 25% from levels somewhat above today’s,’ Deutsche Bank says

Single-stock movers
  • Shares of Apple Inc.
    AAPL,
    -2.63%
    finished down by 2.6% amid reports of a production shortfall of as many as 6 million iPhone Pros.

  • Activision Blizzard Inc.
    ATVI,
    +1.70%
    shares ended 1.7% higher as Wall Street analysts said the stock looked undervalued even if Microsoft Corp.
    MSFT,
    -2.32%
    doesn’t receive clearance for its buyout.

  • Class A shares of DraftKings Inc.
    DKNG,
    -4.23%
    closed down by 4.2% after JPMorgan analyst Joseph Greff turned bearish on the online-sports-betting and fantasy-sports company.

  • Shares of some of China’s biggest technology companies saw their U.S.-traded shares surge on Monday despite the unrest at home. Shares of Alibaba Group
    BABA,
    +0.50%
    finished up by 0.5%, while the KraneShares CSI China Internet ETF
    KWEB,
    +3.92%
    ended 3.9% higher. Shares of Pinduoduo Inc.
    PDD,
    +12.62%
     finished more than 12.5% higher after the company reported impressive earnings, helping to drive the broader rally among the company’s U.S.-traded peers.

Jamie Chisholm contributed to this article.

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