Stock market news live updates: Stocks waver as Fed headlines stoke worries of 75 basis point hike

U.S. stocks struggled for direction at the start of trading Wednesday as a sell-off across equity markets barreled into a fourth straight week.

The S&P 500 and Dow teetered between marginal gains and losses, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite nudged 0.3% higher.

The moves early Wednesday follow the latest report from Nick Timiraos at the Wall Street Journal that suggested another 75 basis-point interest rate increase from the Federal Reserve is likely later this month.

"Powell’s public pledge to reduce inflation, even if it increases unemployment, appears to have put the central bank on a path to raise interest rates by 0.75 percentage point rather than 0.50 point this month," Timiraos wrote.

“The difficult 2022 for stocks may not get much easier because as we now wait for better news on the inflation front, we have to contend with a seasonally weak month of September,” strategists at LPL Financial Research said in a recent note.

Since 1950, the S&P 500 has registered an average decline of 0.54% in September, the worst historical performance of all 12 months of the year. Moreover, September has been the only month over the past decade when the benchmark index averaged a loss.

In commodities, oil prices pushed higher Wednesday amid reports President Vladimir Putin threatened to cut off energy supply if price limits are imposed on Russian oil and gas exports by the West over the country’s war in Ukraine. West Texas Intermediate crude oil rose 0.4% to $87.23 per barrel while Brent futures edged up by about the same margin to $93.21 per barrel.

Oil reversed these gains along with broader markets, however, following the WSJ report.

And in cryptocurrency markets, Bitcoin (BTC-USD) tumbled below $19,000, testing a new low for the year.

Shares of Sharpie marker-, Elmer’s glue-, and Yankee Candle-maker Newell Brands (NWL) slid nearly 5% in pre-market trading after the company slashed its full-year forecast after the closing bell on Tuesday. Chief Executive Officer Ravi Saligram said Newell experienced a “significantly greater-than-expected pullback” in retail orders as inflation pressures consumer spending.

Sharpie markers owned by Newell Brands are seen for sale in a store in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., February 7, 2022. REUTERS/Andrew KellyGameStop (GME) was in focus Wednesday, with the meme-stock favorite set to report second-quarter earnings after market close. Shares were down around 1% ahead of the opening bell.

Across the months of July and August, analysts trimmed their third-quarter earnings per share estimates by a larger margin than average, according to FactSet Research. The Q3 bottom-up EPS estimate – an aggregation of the median EPS estimates for Q3 for all the companies in the S&P 500 – decreased by 5.4% from June 30 to August 31.

Typically, analysts reduce earnings estimates during the first two months of a quarter. Over the past two decades, the average decline in the bottom-up EPS estimate during the first two months of a quarter has been 2.9%.

Morgan Stanley’s Michael J. Wilson, one of Wall Street’s most bearish strategists, cut his expectations for earnings-per-share growth for the year in a note Tuesday, citing the growing threat posted by a slowing economy – more than inflation or monetary tightening by the Federal Reserve. Wilson expects earnings to fall 3%, even if the U.S. economy does not enter a recession.

Alexandra Semenova is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alexandraandnyc

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