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Stock Market Today: Wall Street’s Big Rally Eases Off the Gas After Disappointing Profit Reports

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By Stan Choe AP Business Writer

New York (AP) — Wall Street’s monster-sized rally since Halloween is letting off the accelerator Wednesday following some disappointing profit reports. online news

The S&P 500 was 0.2% lower in early trading, though it’s still within 0.8% of its record set nearly two years ago. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 88 points, or 0.2%, coming off its own record. The Nasdaq composite was edging down by 0.1%, as of 9:35 a.m. Eastern time.

FedEx tumbled 10.6% after reporting weaker revenue and profit for the latest quarter than analysts expected. It also now expects its revenue for the full fiscal year to fall from year-earlier levels, rather than being roughly flat, because of pressures on demand.

The package delivery company sits within the cardiovascular system of the economy, pumping commerce around the world. Weakness for FedEx could damage the hope that has triggered Wall Street’s big rally since late October: that the Federal Reserve can pull off a perfect landing for the economy by slowing it enough to stifle high inflation but not so much to cause a recession.

Winnebago Industries, the maker of motorhomes and other recreational products, also fell short of analysts’ profit expectations for the latest quarter. It said it sold fewer units than a year earlier because of “market conditions” and had to offer higher discounts. Its stock sank 5.4%.

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General Mills, which sells Progresso soup and Yoplait yogurt, reported stronger profit for the latest quarter than expected, but its revenue fell short as a recovery in its sales volume was slower than expected. The company said a key sales measure may now fall for its full fiscal year because of “a more cautious consumer economic outlook” and other factors. Its stock fell 2.2%.

Still, encouraging signs that inflation is continuing to cool keep piling up around the world. In the United Kingdom, a report showed that inflation in November unexpectedly slowed to 3.9% from October’s 4.6% rate, reaching its lowest level since 2021.

Cooler inflation is raising hopes that central banks around the world can pivot in 2024 from their recent campaigns to hike interest rates sharply in order to snuff out high inflation. For the Federal Reserve in particular, the expectation is for its main interest rate to fall by at least 1.50 percentage points in 2024 from its current range of 5.25% to 5.50%, which is its highest level in more than two decades.

Treasury yields have been tumbling since late October on such hopes, and they fell again following the U.K. inflation report.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 3.89% from 3.93% late Tuesday. It had been above 5% in October, at its highest level since 2007 and putting harsh downward pressure on the stock market.

Lower interest rates and yields not only help the economy grow by making borrowing less expensive, they also boost prices for investments and relax the pressure on the overall financial system.

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With yields down, U.S. stocks are still on track for another winning week. Big internet-related companies were among the market’s leaders Wednesday, including a 2.1% rise for Alphabet and 0.4% gain for Amazon.

Stocks of oil and gas companies were also strong as the price of crude clawed back some more of its sharp losses from recent months.

Overall, the S&P 500 just came off its seventh straight week of gains, its longest such streak in six years. That strength and length has also raised criticism that stocks have simply rallied too much.

It’s still not certain the Fed can indeed pull off what was seen as a nearly impossible tightrope walk not long ago. And critics say the number of cuts to rates that Wall Street is forecasting for 2024 seems unlikely unless the economy falls into a recession, which would hurt corporate profits and thus stock prices.

Some officials from the Federal Reserve have also made comments recently saying it’s too early to consider a cut to rates in March, which is when the majority of traders expect them to begin.

In stock markets abroad, the FTSE 100 in London rose 0.9% following the encouraging inflation report. Indexes also rose across much of Asia, but stocks fell 1% in Shanghai after China kept its benchmark lending rates unchanged at the monthly fixing on Wednesday.

AP Business Writer Matt Ott contributed.

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