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US STOCKS-Wall Street falls ahead of Fed announcement

By Shreyashi Sanyal and Bansari Mayur Kamdar

Dec 15 (Reuters) – U.S.stock indexes fell on Wednesday ahead of a policy announcement by the Federal Reserve later in the day, as recent readings on inflation sealed expectations of a speedier wind-down of the central bank’s pandemic-era monetary stimulus.

The U.S. central bank is widely expected to signal a faster end to its bond-buying campaign and a quicker start to raising interest rates at its meeting.The statement will be released at 2 p.m. ET (1900 GMT), followed by Fed chief Jerome Powell’s news conference.

Data on Tuesday showed producer prices increased more than expected in the 12 months through November, clocking its largest gain since 2010. Last week’s consumer prices data showed the biggest gain in almost four decades.

A Reuters poll of economists is suggesting an interest-rate hike to 0.25-0.50% from near zero in the third quarter of next year, followed by another in the fourth quarter.

Seven of the 11 major S&P 500 sector indexes were lower, with energy stocks slipping 1.9% to lead sectoral declines.Defensive plays such as utilities and real estate were among few gainers, signaling a risk-off environment.

“If the Fed announces acceleration of tapering, everything might still go up because it’s saying that (the Fed) taking control and people like that when action is taken,” said Kim Forrest, chief investment officer at Bokeh Capital Partners.

“The Fed is still concerned about the low number of people in the workforce and understands it has to address inflation, so it’s going to be a very moderate talk that will tell the hawks, who want a 3% interest rate overnight, that it’s not going to happen.”

Wall Street’s main indexes have had a softer start to the week after the S&P 500 index touched a record closing high on Friday, as worries about the new fast-spreading Omicron coronavirus variant gave investors pause.

U.S.retail sales rose 0.3% last month, the Commerce Department said, coming in less than expected as Americans started their holiday shopping early to avoid shortages and paying more for goods.

Shares of big technology firms including Tesla Inc, Microsoft Corp, Netflix Inc, Meta Platforms and Alphabet Inc were all down between 0.3% and 2.5%.

At 11:53 a.m.ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 55.49 points, or 0.16%, at 35,488.69, the S&P 500 was down 17.14 points, or 0.37%, at 4,616.95 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 144.95 points, or 0.95%, at 15,092.69.

Albemarle Corp and Livent Corp fell 5.8% and 8.2%, respectively, after Goldman Sachs downgraded both the lithium producers to “sell” from “neutral”.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 2.07-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and for a 2.48-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 15 new 52-week highs and ngentot pramugari 10 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 19 new highs and 471 new lows.(Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal and Bansari Mayur Kamdar in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Maju Samuel)

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