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Rising interest rates spooked stocks far more than a warning from the Fed chair that the equities market is overvalued.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen made the comment in a panel discussion with IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde. "I guess I would highlight that equity valuations at this point generally are quite high," Yellen said. "They're not so high when you compare the returns on equities to the returns on safe assets like bonds, which are also very low but there are potential dangers there."
Stocks were slammed in afternoon trading with the Dow down triple digits, as the 10-year Treasury edged as high as 2.25 percent. When Yellen spoke in the morning, stocks were already moving lower on the session. The market took a dip down on her comments, but temporarily recovered some losses before the selling reaccelerated.
This is not the first comment by a Fed chair that stock prices are too lofty. Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan used the phrase "irrational exuberance" to describe the stock market in 1996. Just last summer, the Fed made an unusually targeted comment about froth in specific parts of the stock market in its Monetary Policy Report. But in both cases, stocks rallied on.