Software giant Oracle helped lead the losses for tech stocks after reporting its revenue for the latest quarter fell just short of what analysts expected. Its stock tumbled 13.5%, even though its profit topped expectations. Oracle’s forecast for how much revenue it will make in the current quarter also wasn’t as strong as some analysts expected.
Apple dropped 1.8% after it unveiled the latest models of its phones and other devices. The stock had soared through much of this year, which is crucial for many investors because it has more sway than other stocks on the S&P 500 as Wall Street’s most valuable company. But it’s been struggling since the end of July and has reported three straight quarters where its revenue fell from year-earlier levels.
Alphabet, meanwhile, fell 1.2% as an antitrust trial against Google opened in a federal courthouse. It’s the biggest such trial since regulators took Microsoft to court in 1998. The U.S. government is accusing Google of abusing its position as the world’s dominant search engine and forcing consumers to settle for inferior search results.
Stocks of oil producers rallied as the price of crude climbed. Exxon Mobil rose 2.9% and was the strongest single force limiting the S&P 500’s loss. Occidental Petroleum gained 4.1%. Oil prices have been climbing since the end of June after mostly falling for a year.
On Wednesday, U.S. benchmark crude was unchanged at $88.84 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It jumped $1.55 on Tuesday.
Brent crude oil, the international pricing standard, was down 5 cents at $92.01 a barrel.
Higher energy prices could compel the Federal Reserve to act again to tame inflation, Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management said in a commentary.
“This scenario underscores the delicate balance between energy costs, inflationary pressures, and the central bank’s monetary policy actions, which can have profound implications for the broader economic landscape,” he said.
Stocks have been see-sawing in recent weeks amid the revived uncertainty about whether the Federal Reserve is done with its avalanche of hikes to interest rates. The central bank has already pushed its main interest rate to the highest level in more than two decades, trying to get inflation back down to its target of 2%.
High rates work to undercut inflation by slowing the entire economy and knocking down prices for stocks and other investments.
Several reports coming up this week could sway the Fed’s thinking. On Wednesday will come the latest monthly update on prices that U.S. consumers are paying across the country.
Economists expect it to show that prices were broadly 3.6% higher last month than a year earlier. Inflation has been mostly cooling since peaking above 9% last summer.
Thursday will bring reports about inflation at the wholesale level and sales at U.S. retailers. Strong spending by U.S. households has helped keep the U.S. economy humming, but it could also be encouraging companies to keep trying to raise their prices further.
Several strong reports on the economy recently have allayed worries about a painful recession, defying long-held predictions. But they also may be adding more fuel to pressures keeping inflation high, which could push the Fed to keep rates higher for longer.
Traders overwhelmingly expect next week’s meeting for the Federal Reserve to end with interest rates staying where they are.