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Wall Street Opens Mostly Lower on Rate Jitters Ahead of Fed

Stock MarketsMar 17, 2021 09:54AM ET
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By Geoffrey Smith -- U.S. stock markets opened lower on Wednesday as nervousness about a possible withdrawal of monetary stimulus sent bond yields higher, weighing on the valuations of technology stocks in particular.

By 9:45 AM ET (1345 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average had eked out a gain of 76 points, or 0.2%, to 32,902 points, but the S&P 500 was down 0.3% and the Nasdaq Composite was down 0.9%. 

Earlier, fresh data showed that both housing starts and building permits fell by more than expected in February, in what some interpreted as the first signs that the rise in bond yields in recent weeks is feeding through to the rate-sensitive housing market. The number of mortgage applications last week also fell for the fifth week in six, indicating that higher refinancing rates are starting to have an impact.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury bond rose to a fresh 13-month high of 1.68% earlier, amid fears that a strong U.S. recovery this year will move up the date when the Fed starts to withdraw stimulus. At present, it's committing to buy $120 billion in bonds each month through the end of 2021, while its latest guidance indicates that policy-makers don't see any interest rate hike as necessary before 2024. 

Analysts expect the Fed's guidance after Wednesday's meeting to show at least one or two members bringing forward their expectations for higher rates into 2023, which would bring the central bank more into line with the market's own implicit forecasts. 

"Powell will be walking a fine line between acknowledging the rosier outlook and reiterating that policy will stay loose," Bank of New York Mellon (NYSE:BK) macro-strategist John Velis said in a note to clients.

The Fed's monetary policy statement is due at 2 PM ET, while Chairman Jerome Powell's press conference starts half an hour later. 

In corporate news, Plug Power (NASDAQ:PLUG) stock fell 13.1% after the hydrogen fuel cell company said it would have to restate its financial accounts having identified what it called "accounting errors". The company has been a habitual loss-maker, despite signing a number of landmark agreements with companies such as Air Water (T:4088), Renault (OTC:RNLSY) and Acciona (MC:ANA) in recent months.

Elsewhere, PinDuoDuo ADRs fell 8.6% after the company announced its founder Colin Huang Zheng will step down. The news overshadowed a solid set of quarterly results that saw PinDuoDuo overtake Alibaba  (NYSE:BABA) as China's biggest e-commerce company by revenue. 

Semiconductor stocks were mixed after Samsung (KS:005930), the world's biggest chipmaker, said it expects the global shortage of chips to last a while yet, noting that it hasn't yet restarted its foundry in Texas since it was forced to close during the recent cold snap. 



Wall Street Opens Mostly Lower on Rate Jitters Ahead of Fed

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CHAD TENDIES Mar 17, 2021 11:30AM ET
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