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US STOCKS-Wall St eases as tech-related shares fall, rate-cut outlook weighed

Credit: REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Caroline Valetkevitch

March 15 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks fell on Friday, led by technology-related megacaps that have propelled this year's rally, while investors weighed the interest rate outlook ahead of next week's Federal Reserve meeting.

Traders have reined in bets of a June rate cut by the Fed after this week's hotter-than-expected inflation data.

The S&P 500 technology index .SPLRCT was down 1.2%, with shares of Microsoft MSFT.O falling more than 2%.

An index of semiconductors .SOX fell slightly, on track to its biggest weekly percentage drop since early January. The Nvidia GTC developer conference scheduled for March 18 to 21 will be watched closely for AI-related announcements.

"We seem in a period here where everyone knows rates eventually will be lowered. The expectation of when it happens keeps getting slightly pushed back, but investors still believe it will happen," said Rick Meckler, partner at Cherry Lane Investments in New Vernon, New Jersey.

"It's been a back-and-forth market as people reposition and consider whether some of the real winners have just gone a little bit too far, so you're seeing them trade off."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 156.5 points, or 0.4%, to 38,749.16. The S&P 500 .SPX lost 28.24 points, or 0.55%, at 5,122.24 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 127.79 points, or 0.79%, to 16,000.74.

While Wall Street's AI-driven rally has stalled, the S&P 500 remains up about 7% for the year to date.

Friday also marked the simultaneous expiry of quarterly derivatives contracts tied to stocks, index options and futures, also known as "triple witching," which can boost trading volumes and exacerbate volatility.

Among data released on Friday, production at U.S. factories increased more than expected in February, but the January figure was revised sharply down as manufacturing remains hamstrung by higher interest rates.

Also, the University of Michigan's preliminary reading on the overall index of consumer sentiment came in at 76.5 this month, versus an estimated reading of 76.9.

All eyes are now on next week's Fed meeting and any clues on the central bank's outlook for rate cuts.

Among other declining shares, Ulta BeautyULTA.O fell 4.1% after forecasting full-year profit below Wall Street estimates, as elevated supply-chain costs and increased promotions hurt its margins.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by a 1.00-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.20-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 26 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 46 new highs and 116 new lows.

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(Additional reporting by Bansari Mayur Kamdar and Shashwat Chauhan in Bengaluru; Editing by Pooja Desai and Richard Chang)

((caroline.valetkevitch@thomsonreuters.com))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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