Stock market today: Wall Street slips as households get more nervous

NEW YORK — Stocks are slipping Friday as a listless week on Wall Street appears to be heading toward a quiet close, even as big worries continue to roil under the surface.

The S&P 500 was edging 0.2% lower and on pace for a sixth straight week where it moved less than 1%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 44 points, or 0.1%, at 33,265, as of 10:50 a.m. Eastern time, while the Nasdaq composite was 0.3% lower.

Despite the seemingly placid moves for the overall market, big swings have swirled underneath amid worries about a possible recession, high inflation and the U.S. government inching toward what could be a catastrophic default on its debt.

It’s not just Wall Street that’s concerned. Sentiment among U.S. consumers is tumbling, according to a preliminary survey by the University of Michigan. That’s a worry because strong spending by consumers has been one of main pillars keeping an already slowing economy from sliding into a recession.

Joanne Hsu, director of the Surveys of Consumers, pointed to the looming June 1 deadline when the U.S. government could run out of cash to pay its bills unless Congress allows it to borrow more.

“If policymakers fail to resolve the debt ceiling crisis, these dismal views over the economy will exacerbate the dire economic consequences of default,” she said in a statement.

President Joe Biden and congressional leaders postponed a meeting set for Friday on the debt limit crisis to next week. The delay was billed as a sign of positive exchanges as staff-level talks are expected to continue through the weekend.

One area under heavy pressure this week looking to stabilize was PacWest Bancorp’s stock. It’s been under heavy scrutiny as Wall Street hunts for the next possible U.S. bank to fail following three high-profile collapses since March.

PacWest was 0.9% higher a day after sliding sharply when it disclosed a flight of deposits from the prior week. It had been up by more in the morning, and it’s still down nearly 18% for the week so far.

Banks have been bending under the weight of much higher interest rates, which have caused some customers to pull deposits in search of higher yields while also dragging down prices for the investments that the banks hold.

Rates are so high because the Federal Reserve has been hiking them at a furious pace in order to drive down inflation. Reports this week suggested inflation is continuing to moderate from its peak last year, though it remains way too high for the comfort of households and regulators.

The hope on Wall Street is that easing inflation may convince the Fed to hold off on raising rates again at its next meeting in June. That would offer some breathing room to both the economy, which has slowed under the weight of higher rates, and to financial markets, where prices began falling long ago.

One potential wild card arrived in Friday’s report on consumer sentiment. It suggested U.S. households are girding for 3.2% inflation over the long run. That’s higher than last month’s reading of 3% and the highest level since 2011.

One worry the Fed has is that if expectations for high inflation become entrenched, it could change behaviors by shoppers and others across the economy that only worsens inflation.

Treasury yields rose in the bond market following the consumer-sentiment report. The yield on the 10-year Treasury erased an earlier dip and climbed to 3.43% from 3.39% late Thursday. It helps set rates for mortgages and other important loans.

The two-year yield, which moves more on expectations for the Fed, rose to 3.97% from 3.90%.

News Corp. rose 6.5% after it reported a milder drop in profit and revenue for the latest quarter than analysts expected.

That’s been the trend for most of this earnings reporting season. Reports have been better than feared but still weaker than a year earlier. Companies in the S&P 500 are on track to report a second straight quarter of drops in earnings per share, something that’s called an “earnings recession.”

First Solar soared 23.8% after announcing it’s purchasing Evolar AB, a European company, to accelerate its development of high efficiency tandem devices and other technologies.

On the losing end of Wall Street was Gen Digital, which fell 7.4% despite reporting stronger profit and revenue for the latest quarter than expected.


AP Business Writers Yuri Kageyama and Matt Ott contributed.