US stocks sink over 2 per cent as Fed officials eye rate hike

 Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Sept 9, 2016.
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Sept 9, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP) - Wall Street stocks suffered their sharpest losses on Friday (Sept 9) since the Brexit vote after Federal Reserve officials signalled the US central bank could hike interest rates as soon as this month.

The losses were broad-based, hitting industrials and energy shares especially hard, after Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren said in a speech that higher rates were needed to prevent the economy from overheating.

A second Fed official, Governor Daniel Tarullo, signaled openness to a rate hike in 2016 in an interview with CNBC.

"Given the European Central Bank commentary yesterday as well as some Fed speakers today, it appears more likely that the Fed and the world is closer to lessening the amount of easy money," said David Levy, portfolio manager at Republic Wealth Advisors.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell nearly 400 points, or 2.1 per cent to 18,085.45.

The broad-based S&P 500 shed 2.5 per cent to 2,127.81, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 2.5 per cent at 5,125.91.

US stocks have rallied to records in the last two months after plunging following the June 23 British vote to exit the European Union.

But analysts have cautioned that a correction was possible given the importance of central bank-generated liquidity to the stock market gains.

Industrial companies Boeing, Caterpillar and General Electric all shed 3 percent or more, while oil giant Chevron fell 2.7 percent and ExxonMobil 2.5 percent.

Technology shares were also generally weak, with Apple shedding 2.3 per cent, Facebook 2.4 per cent and Twitter 3.2 per cent.

Large banks generally outperformed, with higher rates from the Federal Reserve expected to boost their lending margins. Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase shares kept losses to under 1 per cent.

But Wells Fargo slumped 2.4 per cent a day after regulators fined the banking giant more than US$185 million (S$250 million) due to allegations the bank secretly opened millions of fake accounts without customers' knowledge.

General Motors sank 3.9 per cent after it issued a recall notice for 4.3 million cars and trucks worldwide due to a dangerous electronic fault that could prevent airbag deployment in an accident.