U.S. stocks plunged in a steep sell-off Friday after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell reiterated the central bank’s commitment to fight inflation in a hawkish speech at the Jackson Hole economic symposium.
The Nasdaq led losses, diving 3.9%, and the S&P 500 shed 3.3%, with both indexes logging their biggest one-day drops since June 13. The Dow Jones Industrial Average erased 1,000 points, or 3%. All three major averages settled at four-week lows.
“Restoring price stability will likely require maintaining a restrictive policy stance for some time,” Powell said in his remarks at the gathering in Wyoming. “The historical record cautions strongly against prematurely loosening policy.”
In a note to clients following Friday’s speech, Ian Shepherdson at Pantheon Macro wrote, “In one line: Nothing for doves.”
“Chair Powell’s speech forcefully reiterated the Fed’s intention to tighten policy enough to bring inflation down to target and then keep it here,” Shepherdson wrote.
Investors had been bracing for hawkish messaging from the U.S. central bank chief on the Fed’s ambitions to tighten monetary conditions and restore price stability as inflation holds near a four-decade high.
Federal Reserve officials have asserted that imminent policy decisions will be guided by economic data on a meeting-by-meeting basis – and so far, many readings on economic activity have affirmed the central bank is likely to proceed with further tightening of monetary conditions.
On Friday, data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis showed consumer prices fell slightly last month. Headline PCE dropped 0.1% between June and July with a 4.8% decline in energy prices driving the index lower. On a year-over-year basis, headline PCE rose 6.3% in July.
Core PCE, the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation, rose 0.1% month-on-month in July and 4.6% from the prior year, marking the lowest annual increase since October 2021. Economists had expected core PCE would rise 4.7% against the same month last year.
On Wednesday, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City President Esther George told Yahoo Finance in a sit-down interview that policymakers have “more work to do” on interest rate hikes, and the sharpest impacts from its recent moves have not yet been felt.
“We are trying to get back to 2% inflation as quickly as we can, without doing damage to the economy,” George said in Jackson Hole.
“So July looked like there was some easing in those price pressures, but certainly not enough that you would say, we’re in the right direction,” she added. “So I think we have more data to see. And I think we have more work to do, to begin to see that trend move down.”
Alexandra Semenova is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alexandraandnyc