Sharp fall on Wall St after Lockhart’s taper comments

US stock index benchmarks sunk to the day’s lows after Atlanta Fed chief Dennis Lockhart said in a speech today that he would support further tapering if the economy plays out as he expects.

The US earnings seasons will ramp up pace this week, with a long list of major names due to announce quarterly reports, and the week has begun with investors acting cautiously.

Stocks have fallen in New York, sharply so after the President of the Atlanta Fed delivered a speech in which he said he would back more tapering if the economy progresses as expected. Dennis Lockhart, who is seen as a centrist at the Fed, said ‘We are entering this year on a more solid economic footing…I think the weight of uncertainty holding back the economy has diminished.’

On this basis, he said he foresees growth of 2.5 to 3% and despite lingering worries over the labour market and inflation, should this be achieved, he said he ‘would support similar tapering steps [to the most recent reduction] over the course of this year.’

The market has had a knee-jerk reaction to these comments, even though there is nothing particularly new being said, with Mr Lockhart re-iterating the data-dependent nature of the Fed’s decision, saying the FOMC ‘will assess how things are going, economically speaking, at each meeting, and decide on the next step.’

By early afternoon in New York, the Dow Jones was down 0.61% or 100 points at 16,337 and the S&P 500 dropped 0.70% to 1829.5.

The US Treasury Budget is due to be released at 7pm GMT.

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