Stocks fall as fear of recession weighs on investors, Dow snaps four-day win streak: Live updates

Inflation cools in March. How experts are positioning for what's next
Inflation cools in March. How experts are positioning for what's next

Stocks fell Wednesday as recession concerns weighed on Wall Street, even as traders assessed the release of cooler-than-expected inflation data.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average snapped a four-day win streak, shedding 38.29 points, or 0.11%, to 33,646.50. Earlier in the day, the index was up by more than 200 points.

The S&P 500 declined 0.41% to 4,091.95. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Composite fell by 0.85% to 11,929.34.

Those moves come after minutes from the Federal Reserve's March policy meeting showed officials feared the economy could tilt into a mild recession later this year in the wake of the U.S. banking crisis.

"Given their assessment of the potential economic effects of the recent banking-sector developments, the staff's projection at the time of the March meeting included a mild recession starting later this year, with a recovery over the subsequent two years," read the meeting summary on Wednesday.


Meanwhile, in an interview with CNBC's "Squawk on the Street," Richmond Federal Reserve President Thomas Barkin said that, while peak inflation may be behind the U.S., "we still have a ways to go."

Recession concerns continued to weigh on investors even as the March consumer price index came in cooler than expected, showing a rise of 0.1%. Economists polled by Dow Jones were expecting CPI to rise by 0.2% month over month.

"It is encouraging because it shows the direction is the way the Fed wants it to go, but I don't think it's enough to cause the Fed to stop raising rates," said CFRA's Sam Stovall.

Later in the week, the health of the U.S. economy and consumer will be put to the test as first-quarter earnings season kicks into full gear. Banking behemoths JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citigroup are on deck, as well as health-care giant UnitedHealth.

Stocks close lower Wednesday

The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 38.29 points, or 0.11%, to 33,646.50. Earlier in the day, the index was up by more than 200 points.

The S&P 500 declined 0.41% to 4,091.95. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Composite fell by 0.85% to 11,929.34.

— Sarah Min

Texas crude oil touches highest since last November; gasoline since October

May West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil contracts touched $83.53 a barrel (42 gallons) on Wednesday, the highest since Nov. 17, 2022.

WTI is close to crossing its 200-day moving average ($83.87), a level it hasn't traded above since late last August, 2022, and is almost 2% higher year-to-date.

More worrying for drivers, perhaps is that May gasoline futures (RBOB) are now almost 17% higher so far this year, after reaching a high of $2.8943 on Wednesday, the highest intraday price since Oct. 31. (Happy Halloween).

— Gina Francolla, Scott Schnipper

Raymond James Investment Management: We're in the 'latter stages' of bear market

While the bear market persists, the end could be near, according to Michael Gibbs of Raymond James Investment Management.

The market is "shifting narrative after narrative," he wrote in a note. This "can be confusing, but [it's] all part of the bottoming process as we believe we are in the latter stages of this bear market, but in the near-term, the S&P 500 likely stays range bound between 3500-4100."

The S&P 500 fell slightly Wednesday as traders pored over the latest U.S. inflation data.

— Fred Imbert

CNBC Pro: Top economist Ed Hyman says the Fed should pause since U.S. is probably already headed for a hard landing

The Federal Reserve should halt its interest rate hiking campaign because the U.S. economy is already poised for a recession, said economist Ed Hyman, chairman of Evercore ISI.

Hyman said on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" that he was in the "recession camp," but did not expect a sharp downturn. Hyman, who has been ranked the No. 1 Wall Street economist for more than four decades by Institutional Investor, said the Fed may not need to cut interest rates just yet, but should at least not implement another rate hike at the next meeting in early May.

"Words are important," Hyman said. "Soft landing? I don't think so. Hard landing? Probably. Severe recession? No, I don't think so."

"You need to take a step at a time," he added. "I feel confident that the Fed should pause and then see what happens."

CNBC Pro subscribers can read the full story here.

— Alex Harring

Confluent shares jump more than 6% on Morgan Stanley upgrade

Morgan Stanley analyst Sanjit K. Singh upgraded Confluent to overweight from equal weight on Wednesday. Singh believes the software company stands to emerge as a leader in cloud optimization—a field he said constitutes a $173 billion investment opportunity. 

"We upgrade CFLT to OW given attractive valuation, a major pivot to profitability and a large growth opportunity that remains intact," Singh wrote in the note. "As CFLT shares have re-rated lower in recent months, we are starting to see several proof points that 2023/2024 estimates may be more achievable and see upside as headwinds from cloud optimization efforts subside heading into 2024."

The firm raised its price target by a dollar to $30, suggesting the stock stands to gain 28.4% since Tuesday's closing price. Shares of Confluent were up more than 6% in early afternoon trading, and the stock has gained about 17.3% so far this year. 

With cloud technology, Singh expects Confluent to unlock three capabilities: helping organizations achieve real-time business operations, allowing customers to build a wide range of new business applications such as real-time inventory management or fraud detection services, and supporting many business analytics use cases, such as including real-time analytics on streaming data. The firm added that Confluent has a renewed commitment to better operational efficiency and recording a profit by the fourth quarter. 

– Pia Singh

Globant rises 2% after Needham says stock could rally

Technology services company Globant rose 2% after Needham said the company is a leading services provider with strong room to grow — making it worth its relatively high valuation.

Analyst Mayank Tandon initiated coverage of the stock at a buy rating. He set a price target of $205 for the stock, which implies an upside of 30.6% over where it ended Tuesday's session.

"We believe that GLOB's focus on high-end digital services should allow it to generate best-in-breed organic growth while maintaining an attractive margin profile, which in turn supports its premium valuation to the broader group," Tandon said in a note to clients Wednesday.

Tandon said the company has a diverse revenue base and deep expertise that can provide a "competitive advantage." The company also has a strong balance sheet and risk-reward ratio, he said.

Despite Wednesday's performance, the stock has slipped almost 5% since the start of the year, underperforming the broader market. The stock tumbled 46.5% in 2022.

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— Alex Harring

BlackRock's Fink warns of 'stickier inflation'

BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, speaking at an event for the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia, said that he expects to see "stickier inflation for longer."

"I don't see how we get below 4% inflation any time soon, which in my mind will probably lead to more tightening by the Federal Reserve and other central banks," Fink said.

He pointed out that investment from