By David French
Sept 22 (Reuters) - The Nasdaq and S&P 500 closed lower on Thursday, falling for a third straight session as investors reacted to the Federal Reserve's latest aggressive move to rein in inflation by selling growth stocks including technology companies.
The Fed lifted rates by an expected 75 basis points on Wednesday and signaled a longer trajectory for policy rates than markets had priced in, fuelling fears of further volatility in stock and bond trading in a year that has already seen bear markets in both asset classes.
The U.S. central bank's projections for economic growth released on Wednesday were also eye-catching, with growth of just 0.2% this year, rising to 1.2% for 2023.
Jitters were already present in the market after a number of companies - most recently FedEx Corp FDX.N and Ford Motor Co F.N - issued dire outlooks for earnings.
As of Friday, the S&P 500's estimated earnings growth for the third quarter is at 5%, according to Refinitiv data. Excluding the energy sector, the growth rate is at -1.7%.
The S&P 500's forward price-to-earnings ratio, a common metric for valuing stocks, is at 16.8 times earnings - far below the nearly 22 times forward P/E that stocks commanded at the start of the year.
Of the 11 major S&P sectors, consumer discretionary .SPLRCD and financial .SPSY stocks were among the biggest decliners.
Shares of megacap technology and growth companies such as Amazon.com Inc AMZN.O, Tesla Inc TSLA.O and Nvidia Corp NVDA.O fell as benchmark U.S. Treasury yields hit an 11-year high. US/
Rising yields weigh particularly on valuations of companies in the technology sector, which have high expected future earnings and form a significant part of the market-cap weighted indexes such as the S&P 500.
The slump in the S&P 500 tech sector .SPLRCT has noticeably outpaced the decline in the benchmark index.
"If we continue to have sticky inflation, and if (Fed Chair Jerome) Powell sticks to his guns as he indicates, I think we enter recession and we see significant drawdown on earnings expectations," said Mike Mullaney, director of global markets at Boston Partners.
"If this happens, I have high conviction under those conditions that we break 3,636," he added, referring to the S&P 500's mid-June low, its weakest point of the year.
According to preliminary data, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 32.08 points, or 0.87%, to end at 3,757.06 points, while the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC lost 156.15 points, or 1.39%, to 11,064.04. The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 115.39 points, or 0.38%, to 30,068.39.
Major U.S. airlines - which have enjoyed a rebound amid increased travel as pandemic restrictions end - were also down, with JetBlue Airways Corp JBLU.O, United Airlines UAL.O and American Airlines AAL.O all falling for the third straight day.
Darden Restaurants Inc DRI.N slid after the Olive Garden parent reported downbeat first-quarter sales.
S&P 500 Forward PEhttps://tmsnrt.rs/3dxGlqX
(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar, Medha Singh, Devik Jain and Ankika Biswas in Bengaluru and David French in New York; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta, Anil D'Silva and Deepa Babington)
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