Stocks fall on recession fears; Dow slips into bear market

The Dow Jones Industrial Average became the last of the major U.S. stock indexes to fall into what’s known as a bear market Monday as the market deepened its slump amid growing fears of a global recession.

The blue chip index fell 1.1%, while the S&P 500 closed 1% lower and the Nasdaq dropped 0.6% as the indexes extended their losing streak to a fifth day.

The British pound dropped to an all-time low against the dollar and investors continued to dump British government bonds in displeasure over a sweeping tax cut plan announced in London last week.

Markets in Europe closed mostly lower. The head of the European Central Bank warned that the economic outlook “is darkening” as high energy and food prices pushed up by the war in Ukraine sap consumer spending power. France, the EU’s second-biggest economy, forecast a substantial slowdown in economic growth next year.

In the U.S., stock indexes have been losing ground, coming off their fifth weekly loss in six weeks.

“Yields are higher, the dollar is stronger and stocks are weak,” said Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at All Star Charts. “That’s been the theme, really all year, and intensified a little bit last week and that’s playing out this week.”

The S&P 500 fell 38.19 points to 3,665.04. The Nasdaq dropped 65 points to 10,802.92. The Dow lost 329.60 points to close at 29,260.81. It’s now 20.5% below its all-time high set on Jan. 4. A drop of 20% or more from a recent peak is what Wall Street calls a bear market.

Losses were broad and included banks, health care companies and energy stocks. Bank of America fell 2.2%, Medtronic dropped 1.6% and Marathon Oil slid 3.7%.

Casino and resort operators were a bright spot following reports that the gambling center of Macao will loosen travel restrictions in November. Wynn Resorts jumped 12%.

Smaller company stocks fell more than the broader market. The Russell 2000 dropped 23.71 points, or 1.4%, to close at 1,655.88.

The latest bout of selling to open the week comes amid an extended slump for major indexes. The benchmark S&P 500 is down more than 7% in September. Stocks have been weighed down by concerns about stubbornly hot inflation and the risk that central banks could push economies into a recession as they try to cool high prices on everything from food to clothing. Investors have been particularly focusing on the Federal Reserve and its aggressive interest rate hikes.

“We’re starting to have a handoff from fears about inflation and the Fed to global economic worries,” said Mark Hackett, chief of investment research at Nationwide. “We’ve reached a universal degree of pessimism.”

The Fed raised its benchmark rate, which affects many consumer and business loans, again last week and it now sits at a range of 3% to 3.25%. It was at virtually zero at the start of the year. The Fed also released a forecast suggesting its benchmark rate could be 4.4% by the year’s end, a full point higher than envisioned in June.

The goal is to make borrowing more expensive and effectively crimp spending, which would cool inflation. The U.S. economy is already slowing, however, and Wall Street is worried that the Fed’s rate hikes will pump the brakes too hard on the economy and cause a recession. Higher interest rates hurt all kinds of investments, especially pricey technology stocks.

The yield on the 2-year Treasury, which tends to follow expectations for Federal Reserve action, rose significantly to 4.32% from 4.21% late Friday. It is trading at its highest level since 2007. The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which influences mortgage rates, jumped to 3.89% from 3.69%.

The recent rise in the U.S. dollar against other currencies is a concern for many countries. It dents profits for U.S. companies with overseas business, and puts a financial squeeze on much of the developing world.