Stocks fell and bond yields rose on Wall Street Wednesday after the Federal Reserve lowered its key interest rate for the first time in a decade but left investors feeling uncertain about the likelihood of further cuts.
The quarter-point cut announced by the central bank was widely expected, so investors focused on Chairman Jerome Powell's remarks during a news conference for hints about the Fed's future plans for additional rate cuts.
Powell said that there could be more cuts, but that the central bank was not intending to embark on a long cycle of lowering interest rates. He then characterized the rate cut as a "mid-cycle adjustment."
After initially having little reaction the Fed's policy announcement at 2 p.m., stocks started sinking, briefly knocking the Dow Jones Industrial Average down more than 470 points. Prices of short-term U.S. government bonds fell after the announcement, sending yields higher.
"Clearly, the market is disappointed," said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial. "They wanted a more emphatic message from the Fed that this was in fact the beginning of a trend."
The Fed did repeat a pledge to "act as appropriate to sustain the expansion," wording that the financial markets have previously interpreted as a signal for possible future rate cuts.
Some on Wall Street had believed the Fed might act more aggressively in cutting rates by half a percentage point rather than the quarter-point cut it wound up making. Disappointment over that may have also put traders in a selling mood.
The Fed hopes the rate cut will counter threats to the U.S. economy ranging from uncertainties caused by the nation's trade disputes to chronically low inflation and a dimming global growth outlook.
Technology, health care and consumer-oriented companies accounted for much of the market's late-afternoon tumble. Banks and other financial companies were the only sector to hold on to slight gains.
In addition to keeping an eye on the Fed, investors continued to pore through a heavy flow of corporate earnings Wednesday. Companies are about midway through the earnings reporting season, and results have generally been better than the dismal expectations that analysts had coming into it.
The S&P 500 index was down 0.7% as of 3:37 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 321 points, or 1.18%, to 26,876. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.7% and the Russell 2000 index of smaller companies gained 0.1%.
Stocks have been mostly pulling back after setting records last week.
Investors had been expecting a rate cut after Fed officials signaled in recent weeks their readiness to take action to help shore up the U.S. economy, which faces threats to growth from the prolonged trade war with China.
The central bank cut its benchmark rate by a quarter-point to a range of 2% to 2.25%. It's the first rate cut since December 2008 during the depths of the Great Recession, when the Fed slashed its rate to a record low near zero and kept it there until 2015. After that, the Fed went on to make nine quarter-point rate increases from December 2015 to December 2018.
The economy is far healthier now than it was in 2008, despite risks to what's become the longest expansion on record.
Traders have been betting the rate cut could help give the economy, and stock prices, a boost. It would help lower rates on consumer and business loans, which would encourage borrowing and possibly energize the economy.
The 10-year Treasury yield fell to 2.02% from 2.06% late Tuesday. The two-year yield, which is more influenced by the Fed's movements, rose sharply, to 1.88% from 1.83%.
Apple rose 3% after beating Wall Street's profit and revenue forecasts for the quarter while slamming the brakes on the decline of iPhone sales in China.
Sales of the company's best-known product are still sputtering, but the company has seen increasing revenue contributions from digital services, such as music. The decline of iPhone sales in China slowed drastically during Apple's third quarter to a 4% drop. Sales of the iPhone plunged 25% during the first half of the company's fiscal year.
IHOP and Applebee's owner Dine Brands Global fell 4.6% after slashing its financial forecast for the year. The company cut forecasts for sales at existing Applebee's and IHOP locations, along with overall profit, following a disappointing second quarter earnings report.
Molson Coors Brewing slid 5.1% after the company reported a global decline in volume and sales during the second quarter that weighed down profit. The maker of Molson and Coors fell short of analysts' profit and revenue forecasts. It faced weaker demand in May and June.
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.