US Markets

Dow drops more than 150 points after Fed's Powell dashes rate-cut hopes

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Stocks fell on Wednesday after the top-ranking Federal Reserve official hinted that lower rates may not be in the cards.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 162.77 points at 26,430.14, while the pulled back 0.8% to 2,923.73 after hitting an all-time high. The Nasdaq Composite declined 0.6% to 8,049.64. The S&P 500 also posted its worst day since March 22.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said in a news conference that recently low inflationary pressures may only be "transitory," dashing speculation the central bank was at least entertaining the idea of a rate cut because of tame inflation.

"The market was pricing in this rate cut. They want a rate cut and this was basically Powell saying, 'sorry but we're not,'" said Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at the Bleakley Advisory Group.

Treasury yields rebounded on Powell's comment. The 2-year yield went from a session low of around 2.2% to trade back at 2.27%.

Powell's comment and the move in Treasurys came after the Fed voted unanimously to maintain the benchmark rate in a range of 2.25% and 2.5%. On inflation, the central bank said it remained low.

The Fed's statement came after data released earlier this week showed the core personal consumption expenditure price index remained unchanged in March and was up 1.6% year over year. That's below the Fed's 2% target. President Donald Trump urged the Fed to cut rates by 1 percentage point this week because of low inflation.

Stocks rose broadly earlier in the day following positive news on trade. CNBC reported on Wednesday, citing sources, that a U.S.-China trade deal could be announced by next Friday. Strong earnings from companies like of Apple's quarterly results and strong jobs data for April boosted sentiment as well.

Apple shares rose 4.9% after its earnings and revenue for the previous quarter beat expectations. The tech giant's guidance for the next quarter was also better than expected.

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"Simply put Apple's results and outlook across most metrics were clearly better than expected," an analyst at Citi wrote in a note. "As a result both our and consensus estimates will move slightly higher."

Mondelez also rose 1.6% after posting better-than-expected results.

Overall, the corporate earnings season is turning out better than analysts had expected. Of the companies that have reported so far, 75% have beaten earnings estimates, according to FactSet.

On the data front, ADP and Moody's Analytics said private payrolls increased by 275,000 in April, easily blowing by a Dow Jones estimate of 177,000. The strong gain was led by an increase of 223,000 in payrolls within the services sector.

The report is the latest piece of economic data to top expectations. Last week, the Commerce Department said the U.S. economy grew at an annualized rate of 3.2% in the first quarter, easily surpassing expectations.

"When matched with last week's blockbuster GDP read, it seems we're on far stronger fundamental footing than we may have thought just a few months ago," said Mike Loewengart, vice president of investment strategy at E-Trade.

The report by ADP and Moody's is largely considered to be a preview for the U.S. government monthly jobs report. Other data released Wednesday include the ISM manufacturing PMI for April, which fell to its lowest level since October 2016.

—CNBC's Silvia Amaro contributed to this report.