Dow plunges 346 points as Fed Chairman Jerome Powell preaches ‘patience’ on inflation spike

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US stocks fell sharply Thursday as investors reacted to comments from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell.

Powell refrained from outlining specific steps to rein in what he described as “disorderly” markets. The 10-year Treasury yield spiked back above 1.5% following his statements, spurring a sharp sell-off in the market’s most highly valued sectors, like tech.

Some investors had been hoping that Powell would signal openness to “Operation Twist,” in which the Fed would sell its shorter-term treasury holdings to fuel the purchase of longer-dated treasury notes like the 10-year, in hopes of containing the spike in interest rates. That did not materialize. 

Powell also said he expects the central bank will “be patient” in waiting for inflation to steadily trend above 2%.

Investors also grappled with tepid labor-market data. Jobless claims rose to 745,000 for the week that ended on Saturday, a slight increase from the prior week’s revised total of 736,000. The reading barely beat economic forecasts of 750,000 claims.

Here’s where US indexes stood at the 4:00 p.m. ET close on Thursday:

The billionaire investor Ron Baron told CNBC on Thursday that despite his long-term bullishness on Tesla, he had sold about 25% of his clients’ stake in the electric-vehicle manufacturer after its position became too concentrated.

The weakness in technology stocks hasn’t stopped Cathie Wood’s Ark Invest from buying the dip in high-flying stocks. Ark’s daily trading disclosures indicated that the firm bought millions of shares of Palantir on Wednesday amid the decline.

SPACs couldn’t escape the carnage in the market this week, falling more than 20% over the past two weeks as represented by the Defiance Next Gen SPAC Derived ETF.

Going public in the US via a special-purpose acquisition company has reportedly caught the interest of Flipkart, the Indian e-commerce giant owned by Walmart.

Gabe Plotkin’s Melvin Capital, which was at the center of the GameStop short-squeeze earlier this year, recouped some of its losses and gained 22% in February.

Oil prices spiked higher, in part due to OPEC’s decision to maintain its previously announced supply cuts. West Texas Intermediate crude jumped as much as 5%, to $US64.86 ($83) per barrel. Brent crude, oil’s international benchmark, rose by 4.75%, to $US67.75 ($87) per barrel, at intraday highs.

Gold fell as much as 1.2%, to $US1,695.20 ($2,176) per ounce.