Inflation Worries Weigh on Wall Street

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks are slipping in mixed trading Thursday as more signs of a strong job market have worries about interest rates weighing heavier on Wall Street.

The S&P 500 was 0.3% lower in early trading and on track for a third straight fall. The Nasdaq composite was also down, 0.6% lower, as another rise in yields in the bond market added more pressure on technology and high-growth stocks in particular.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was stronger, up 80 points, or 0.2%, at 32,742, as of 9:52 a.m. Eastern time, largely because of a leap for Salesforce following a strong earnings report.

Most stocks fell as more data rolled in to show that the job market is remaining far more resilient than expected, even though the Federal Reserve has jacked up interest rates at the fastest pace in decades. A report showed that fewer workers applied for unemployment benefits last week for a third straight week.

While that's good news for workers and the overall economy in the near term because it indicates layoffs are low across the country, the fear is that a too-strong jobs market could add upward pressure to inflation. It's the latest piece of data to show that the overall economy, as well as inflation, are staying stronger and higher than expected.

A separate report Thursday showed that labor costs were higher than earlier reported for the last three months of 2022, while productivity was revised down. Both could add pressure on inflation. It follows other reports over the last month showing overall job growth, spending by consumers and inflation at multiple levels of the economy all remain higher than expected.

That's forced Wall Street to raise its forecasts for how high the Fed will ultimately take interest rates. It also means a delay in any hopes for upcoming cuts to rates. Traders are now in closer alignment with what the Fed has long been saying about keeping rates higher for longer, with many expecting the central bank to ratchet up its own forecasts later this month.

The swing has been clear in the bond market, where Treasury yields have shot higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 4.06% from 4.00% late Wednesday and from less than 3.40% earlier this year. It helps set rates for mortgages and other loans that shape the economy, and it's near its highest level since November.

The two-year yield, which moves more on expectations for the Fed, rose to 4.95% from 4.88% and is close to its highest level since 2007.

Higher rates can drive down inflation because they slow the economy, but they also raise the risk of a recession down the line. They likewise hurt prices for stocks and other investments.

They tend to most hurt investments seen as the riskiest, most expensive or forcing their investors to wait the longest for big growth. That's hit technology and high-growth stocks in particular.

Telsa was helping to lead the way lower for the stock market. It sank 6.6% after saying its next generation of vehicles will cost half as much, though providing few details about its design in a presentation to investors. Hormel Foods, the company behind Spam and Applegate meats, also fell. It sank 6.9% for one of the largest losses in the S&P 500 after reporting weaker profit and revenue for the latest quarter than expected.

On the winning side was Salesforce, which topped forecasts for its profit and revenue last quarter. It also gave a stronger-than-expected forecast for upcoming results. It leaped 13.5%.

Macy's rose 11% after reporting stronger profit and revenue for the holidays than analysts expected.

It ran counter to several other big retailers that have offered discouraging forecasts recently given the struggles of some U.S. households amid still-high inflation.

Stock markets overseas were mixed to lower.

New data out of Europe Thursday showed that inflation eased slightly in the 20 countries that use the euro currency but remains higher than economists expected.