Dow closes out its worst day in three months, falls more than 700 points as recession fears grow

Pro Picks: Watch all of Thursday's big stock calls on CNBC
Pro Picks: Watch all of Thursday's big stock calls on CNBC

Stocks fell sharply Thursday after new data showed retail sales declined more than expected in November, raising fears that the Federal Reserve's relentless interest rate hikes are tipping the economy into a recession.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 764.13 points, or 2.25%, to 33,202.22 — in its worst day since September as hopes for a year-end rally diminished. The S&P 500 dropped 2.49% to 3,895.75, bringing its decline for December to about 4.5%. The Nasdaq Composite tumbled 3.23% to 10,810.53 as the battered tech-heavy index stretched its 2022 losses to nearly 31%.


The sell-off was broad-based with only 14 stocks in the S&P 500 trading in positive territory. Mega-cap tech stocks declined, with shares of Apple and Alphabet down more than 4%, while Amazon and Microsoft were lower by more than 3%. Shares of Netflix fell 8.6% following a Digiday report that said the streaming firm is offering to return money to advertisers after missing viewership targets.

The disappointing retail sales report suggested inflation is taking a toll on consumers. Retail sales fell 0.6% in November, according to the Commerce Department. That was a bigger loss than the Dow Jones estimate of a 0.3% decline.

The selling began Wednesday in the wake of the Fed's latest boost in its overnight borrowing rate. The central bank also said it will continue hiking rates through 2023 and projected its fed funds rate to peak at a higher-than-expected 5.1%. With Wednesday's half a percentage point hike, the targeted range for rates is currently 4.25% to 4.5%, the highest in 15 years.

"The equity market's reaction is now factoring in a recession, and rejecting the possibility of the 'soft/softish' landing mentioned recently by Powell at the [Brookings Institution]," Quincy Krosby, chief global strategist at LPL Financial, wrote Thursday.

"The tug-of-war between the Fed and the markets is squarely on the market's side: the slowdown is not 'transitory,' and the Fed will be forced to act before 2024," Krosby added.

The Dow closed below 34,000 on Wednesday and then the selling intensified on Thursday following the poor retail sales data. Treasury yields continued to defy the Fed and fall on fears the central bank is going too far. The 10-year yield fell below 3.5%.

Bank shares also declined as fears of a recession increased. JPMorgan Chase lost about 2.5%.

Stocks close out sharply lower

Stocks closed out sharply lower Thursday as investors feared the Federal Reserve's relentless interest rate hikes are tipping the economy into a recession.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 764 points, or 2.25%, in its worst day since September as hopes for a year-end rally diminished. The S&P 500 dropped 2.49%, while the Nasdaq Composite tumbled 3.23%.

At session lows, the Dow was down about 950 points, or 2.8%. The S&P 500 was down 2.9%, and the Nasdaq Composite slid 3.54%.

— Sarah Min

Markets might be 'prone to wider swings' in final two weeks of 2022, investor says

Stocks could be in for further volatility heading into the final stretch of 2022 with the December Fed meeting, and a raft of economic reports, in the rearview mirror, according to Brian Price, head of investment management at Commonwealth Financial Network.

"The last two weeks of the year will be interesting as the market might be prone to wider swings given the absence of important economic data releases and the fact that many traders will be on holiday," Price wrote Thursday.

Investors are in for a "critical" upcoming earnings season that will give further insight into how companies are dealing with inflation, he said.

"If we do see an uninspiring earnings season then it's hard to see how we don't have a continuation of the volatile trading environment that has characterized much of 2022," Price added.

— Sarah Min

Stocks pull off worst levels in final hour of trading

Stocks pulled away from their worst levels heading into the final hour of trading, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average off 709 points, or 2.11%. The S&P 500 dropped 2.26%, and the Nasdaq Composite tumbled 2.9%.

At session lows earlier in the day, the Dow was down as much as 950.19 points, or 2.8%. The S&P 500 was off 2.9%, and the Nasdaq Composite was 3.54% lower.

— Sarah Min

Josh Brown: Trading Disney is like trying to catch a 'falling knife'

Trying to trade Disney is like trying to catch a falling knife, according to Josh Brown, CEO of Ritholtz Wealth Management.

Brown said long-term investors will be on good footing if the stock falls back below trading near $89 or $90 per share. But he said it isn't a smart time to trade because it has not stabilized and the stock has not yet clearly reset off its low.

"If you're trading," he said on CNBC's Halftime Report, "it's like a falling-knife strategy."

Other investors joining CNBC's Scott Wapner disagreed.

While Brown said there is concern about how it will perform in a recession, Jenny Harrington, CEO of Gilman Hill Asset Management, said it's a stock that has already priced that in. Meanwhile, she said investors will look to what she called compelling earnings growth from the entertainment giant after the current "hate fest" ends.

Bill Baruch, founder of Blue Line Capital, also said he likes Disney, noting that its free cash flow should accelerate, revenue will grow and it has a good technical pattern.

"Disney is the ultimate storytelling brand and Iger's return is just within that narrative," he said. "We're already seeing that story being told with JPMorgan making it its top pick in 2023."

The stock has lost 41.7% so far this year.

— Alex Harring

RBC cuts Tesla price target

Concerns about demand for Tesla's vehicles and CEO Elon Musk's divided attention are causing even some bullish analysts to dial back expectations, including at RBC Capital Markets.

Analyst Joseph Spak slashed his price target on the stock to $225 per share, down from $325. Spak said in a note to clients that fourth quarter margins could decline. He did maintain his outperform rating on the stock.

"Investors are concerned about demand, pricing, auto-GMs and Twitter distraction/overhang/impact on TSLA brand. These are valid concerns and a necessary re-calibration of expectations could weigh on the stock near-term. But, we see the narrative of TSLA as the best positioned EV maker and meaningful FCF generation re-emerging in 2023," Spak wrote in a note to clients.

Shares of Tesla were last up 0.2% for the day at roughly $157 per share.

—Jesse Pound, Michael Bloom

Roblox shares drop

Shares of Roblox tumbled more than 17% after the gaming company's November business update showed slowing growth, as well as a drop in what it earns from daily active users.

Estimated bookings were between $222 million and $225 million in November, or up 5% to 7% year over year, according to Roblox. However, in November 2021, estimated bookings during the same period grew 22% to 24% year over year.

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— Sofia Pitt, Sarah Min

Communication services, information technology are biggest laggards in the S&P 500

Communication services and information technology stocks were the two biggest laggards in the S&P 500, with the sectors down 4.1% and 4%, respectively, during afternoon trading.

Meanwhile, energy was the best-performing sector in the broader market index. However, it, too, was down 1.2%.

— Sarah Min

Stocks making the biggest moves midday

These are the companies making headlines in midday trading.

  • Netflix— Netflix tumbled more than 9% following a report from Digiday that said the streaming stock's early-stage advertising business is missing viewership targets. The company is reportedly offering to refund money to advertisers.
  • Novavax — Shares of the drugmaker plummeted more than 27% after it proposed a sale of up to $125 million in common stock and a $125 million convertible debt offering.
  • Warner Bros. Discovery – Warner Bros. Discovery's stock shed more than 7% after increasing its restructuring cost estimates by $1 billion. The media giant's been making efforts to cut costs since the merger of AT&T's WarnerMedia unit and Discovery earlier this year.

Read the full list of movers here.

— Samantha Subin

Roughly 5 NYSE stocks decline for every advancer

About five stocks traded lower on Thursday for every advancer at the New York Stock Exchange, as recession fears led investors to dump risky assets such as equities. Overall, 2,449 NYSE-listed names were down, while just 473 advanced.

— Fred Imbert

Wells Fargo names American Express a top pick for 2023

American Express is best situated among consumer finance companies to ride out a rough start to 2023, Wells Fargo analyst Donald Fandetti said in a note Thursday.

"We believe the affluent will hold up best and their global network is still underappreciated," he wrote.

Later in the year, investors may start pricing in the early part of the cycle, which usually provides attractive returns for the sector, he added.

Fandetti also boosted his price target on American Express to $180 from $170, implying more than 16% upside from Wednesday's close. The stock is down nearly 9% year to date.

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— Michelle Fox

Disney headed for worst year since 1974

Disney shares fell more than 3% on Thursday, making them the second-worst performing Dow member on the day. That decline put the stock down more than 40% for the year. That would be its biggest one-year drop since 1974, when it plunged 53.9%.

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— Fred Imbert

Recession concerns grow on Wall Street

Investor concerns that the Federal Reserve's aggressive rate hiking campaign will push the economy into a recession are growing on Wall Street.

"The Fed all year have been very consistent. They have to fight inflation, they've got to get it down, and they're going to tighten financial conditions to do so," said Huw Roberts, head of analytics at Quant Insight.

However, he said the U.S. equity markets are becoming more sensitive to real economic data, rather than financial conditions, as they head into the next calendar year.

"Increasingly, the 2023 main story will be about the real economy. In other words, just how hard a recession we're going to get, can the Fed engineer a soft landing? Or will we get a full blown ugly, hard recession?" Roberts added.

— Sarah Min

Jefferies downgrades Snap to hold

Jefferies downgraded shares of Snap to a hold rating, saying in a note to clients Thursday that revenue estimates are "too optimistic" given the macro difficulties ahead.

"We believe that SNAP will continue to face several headwinds, including the iOS14.5 privacy changes, a worsening macro picture, and intense competition," wrote analyst James Heaney.

Shares dropped more than 8% during midday trading.

Read more on the call from Jefferies here.

— Samantha Subin

Netflix shares fall following Digiday report

Shares of Netflix dropped more than 7% following a Digiday report that the streaming firm is offering to return money to advertisers after missing viewership targets.

The streaming stock is off 51% this year.

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— Sarah Min

Morgan Stanley upgrades Verizon after recent stock underperformance

Verizon shares added about 1% before the bell following an upgrade from Morgan Stanley, citing a favorable risk-reward for the stock after underperforming its peers in 2022.

"Following significant underperformance in '22, VZ trades at a historically attractive valuation on an absolute and relative basis," wrote analyst Simon Flannery.

The stock's down about 28% this year while shares of AT&T and T-Mobile are on pace to post gains. Morgan Stanley downgraded AT&T in a separate note, citing that outperformance.

Read more on the calls from Morgan Stanley here.

— Samantha Subin

Only 27 stocks in the S&P 500 are trading in positive territory

The sell-off was broad-based with just 27 names in the S&P 500 trading in positive territory during Thursday morning trading.

Charles River Laboratories was the top stock in the broader market index, up more than 5%, even as it's down roughly 40% this year.

Among the biggest decliners were shares of Netflix, which were down more than 7% following a Digiday report that the streaming firm is offering to return money to advertisers after missing viewership targets.

Additionally, shares of Western Digital declined more than 6%.

— Sarah Min

Tesla among only seven stocks positive in Nasdaq 100, mega-cap tech stocks drop

Only seven stocks were positive in the Nasdaq 100, including shares of Tesla which climbed more than 1% on Thursday after CEO Elon Musk sold a chunk of his stake in the company.

Shares of other companies T-Mobile, Moderna, Charter,, VeriSign and Pinduoduo were trading higher.

Meanwhile, the stocks most negatively impacted in the index included mega-cap tech stocks.

Shares of Apple, Microsoft and Amazon were down more than 2% each. Alphabet and Meta were trading more than 3% lower. Netflix dropped 7%. Additionally, shares of Nvidia dropped more than 4%.

— Gina Francolla, Sarah Min

Stocks accelerate losses in morning trading

An early sell-off gained momentum Thursday morning, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 718.9 points during the session. The S&P 500 dropped 2.29%, while the Nasdaq Composite lost 2.55%.

— Sarah Min

Stocks open lower for a second day

Stocks were sharply lower Thursday after retail sales for November fell more than expected, raising fears that the Federal Reserve's relentless interest rate hikes are tipping the economy into a recession.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 336 points, or 0.99%. The S&P 500 dropped 1.16%, while the Nasdaq Composite lost 1.28%.

— Sarah Min

Earnings recession will surprise investors, drag market down in 2023, says Mike Wilson

Next year's story for the stock market is all about earnings, which are going to fall significantly, said Morgan Stanley's Mike Wilson. That rapidly slowing growth isn't priced into the market yet, he said in an interview with "Squawk Box" Thursday.

"People assume earnings are going to come down, but it's the magnitude of that decline and how fast it's going to happen — we think that is where the surprise is," said Wilson, the firm's U.S. equity strategist. "That negative operating leverage that we see from that falling inflation… is what is going to hurt margins, and that's irrespective of whether there is an economic recession."

He's predicting 11% decline in year-over-year growth for S&P 500 companies next year. While his year-end target for the index is 3,900, he anticipates it will drop to between 3,000 and 3,300 in the first quarter.

The earnings recession will be brought on by a whole host of reasons, including an economy that has been overstimulated, demand destruction from higher prices and the Federal Reserve's rate hikes this year, Wilson said. There will also be a reaction from corporations.

"At some point confidence just fails and the corporations stop sending because they're like, 'We've got to batten down the hatches a little bit,'" he said.

— Michelle Fox

Jobless claims slip, Philly manufacturing index remains negative

Two economic data points released Thursday showed declines that signal differences in parts of the economy.

Jobless claims fell again to 211,000 for the week ending Dec. 10, down 20,000 from the previous week according to the Labor Department. Continuing claims for the week ending Dec. 3 were 1,671,000, about the same as last week's report.

The Philadelphia Manufacturing Index rose 6 points but remained negative at -13.8, signaling contraction. It's the fourth consecutive negative reading of the index, and the sixth in seven months.

—Carmen Reinicke

November retail sales are weaker than expected

Retail and food services sales fell 0.6% in November after rising 1.3% in the prior month, according to the Commerce Department. That was below Dow Jones estimates of a 0.3% decline.

Excluding autos, retail sales dipped 0.2%, below Dow Jones estimates for a 0.2% gain in spending.

— Sarah Min

Stocks making the biggest moves premarket

These are the companies making headlines before the bell:

  • Tesla (TSLA) – Tesla fell 1.2% in premarket trading after an SEC filing showed that Elon Musk sold another $3.6 billion in shares. The stock is down 55% year to date through Wednesday.
  • Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) – Warner Bros. Discovery raised its projected costs for scrapping planned content by $1 billion to a total of $3.5 billion. The media company has been implementing cost-cutting measures since the merger of AT&T's WarnerMedia unit and Discovery earlier this year. Warner Bros. Discovery lost 1.2% in the premarket.
  • Lennar (LEN) – Lennar slid 2.6% in the premarket after forecasting a slowdown in orders for new homes, stemming from higher mortgage rates. The home builder also reported lower-than-expected earnings for its latest quarter, although revenue was slightly above analyst forecasts.

Check out the full list here.

— Peter Schacknow

Bank of England announces half-point hike

The Bank of England hiked its benchmark interest rate by half a percentage point on Thursday, mirroring the Federal Reserve's move yesterday.

The Bank of England's key rate is now at 3.5%. The central bank had implemented a three-quarters point hike in November.

Inflation cooled slightly to 10.7% in the UK in November. The Bank of England said it expects UK GDP to fall by 0.1% in the fourth quarter.

— Jesse Pound, Elliot Smith

Markets not buying into Fed rate expectations in 'dot plot'

Federal Reserve officials on Wednesday penciled in the likelihood of taking their primary interest rate target above 5% in 2023. Markets don't seem convinced.

Futures contracts tied to the fed funds rate implied a "terminal rate" or endpoint for increases at 4.88% by next summer, according to CME Group data Thursday morning. That contrasts with the Fed's "dot plot" of individual members' expectations, which put the median expectation for the terminal rate at 5.1%.

Pricing also implied a 72% chance of a quarter percentage point interest rate hike in February, which would be another step down from the torrid pace the Fed had set for much of 2022. The central bank on Wednesday raised its benchmark rate half a point to a target range of 4.25%-4.5%, a move that came after four straight three-quarter-point increases.

Morgan Stanley said it sees the Fed ending rate hikes in February, due in large part to economic weakness that will prevent further tightening.

"Job gains are in focus, and we continue to look for a significant slowing in the months ahead, which we expect will stop the Fed short of delivering hikes past February," the firm said in a note Thursday morning.

Markets figure the fed to take the funds rate to a range of 4.75%-5% by mid-year, then cut half a point by the end of 2023.

—Jeff Cox

China officials set to loosen Covid rules and boost economy, WSJ says

China is pivoting back to a focus more on economic growth with senior officials drafting a plan for 5% GDP growth next year, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The plan involves easing Covid restrictions and boosting the real estate sector, the report said.

Economic data in China recently has been weak, raising concerns about a global recession. November trade data announced last week came in lower than expected.

Crude oil is barely higher for the year on fears of a global downturn after trading above $120 a barrel earlier in the year.

If China does shift to more of a growth focus, it could help the outlook for stocks and commodities for 2023.

— John Melloy

Western Digital falls after Goldman downgrade