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Economy

Grim News from Walmart Sends Tremor through US Markets

NEW YORK — U.S. markets headed toward a lower open Tuesday ahead of what is expected to be another sharp interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve this week and troublesome news from Walmart which is considered a bellwether for consumer spending as well as the broader retail sector.

Futures for the Dow Jones industrials fell 0.4% as did futures for the S&P 500. Global shares were mixed and oil prices rose.

The Fed is expected to announce a rate hike of up to three-quarters of a percentage point on Wednesday, triple the usual margin, as the central bank continues an aggressive campaign to stem four-decade high inflation. That would put the Fed’s benchmark rate in a range of 2.25% to 2.5%, the highest since 2018 before the coronavirus pandemic.

Late Monday Walmart lowered its profit outlook in the middle of the quarter, something it rarely does. The world’s largest retailer said rising prices for food and gas are forcing shoppers to cut back on discretionary items, particularly clothing, that carry higher profit margins.

In May, Walmart, Target and other retailers reported that a faster-than-expected shift by customers away from items that were popular in the height of the pandemic, such as casual clothing and home goods, left them with piles of inventory that forced them to slash prices.

Walmart shares are down more than 9% before the opening bell Tuesday and the entire retail sector is under pressure. Target, Macy’s and Kohl’s are all down about 5%.

In midday trading in Europe, the FTSE 100 in London advanced 0.6%, the DAX in Frankfurt lost 0.7% and the CAC 40 in Paris shed 0.3%.

In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.8% to 3,277.44 while the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo shed 0.2% to 27,655.21.

The Hang Seng in Hong Kong gained 1.7% to 20,905.88 after Alibaba Group, the world’s biggest e-commerce company, announced plans to change the status of its Hong Kong-traded shares to make them more accessible to mainland Chinese buyers.

Alibaba went public in New York in September 2014 and completed a secondary listing in Hong Kong in November 2019. The proposed change would upgrade Alibaba’s Hong Kong status to a primary listing along with New York, making the shares eligible for purchase through mainland brokerages.

The Kospi in Seoul added 0.4% to 2,412.96 after data showed the South Korean economy grew by a stronger-than-expected 0.7% over the previous quarter in the three months ending in June.

Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 was 0.3% higher at 6,807.30.

India’s Sensex lost 0.7% at 55,384.00. New Zealand and Bangkok retreated while Singapore and Jakarta gained.

Investors worry aggressive rate hikes by the Fed to contain inflation that is at four-decade highs and similar action by central banks in Europe and Asia might derail global economic growth.

U.S. inflation has accelerated to 9.1%, its highest since 1981.

The U.S. economy is slowing, but healthy hiring shows it isn’t in recession, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Sunday. Fed officials who publicly support a rate hike also cite a strong job market as evidence the economy can stand higher borrowing costs.

On Thursday, the Commerce Department is due to release U.S. economic growth estimate for the thee months ending in June. Some forecasters expect a second quarter of contraction after output shrank 1.6% in the three months ending in March.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.81 to $98.51 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained $2 to $96.70 on Monday. Brent crude, the price basis for international trading, advanced $1.73 to $101.92 per barrel in London. It added $1.95 the previous session to $105.15.

The dollar was unchanged from Monday’s 136.72 yen. The euro inched back to $1.0119.

Shares in McDonald’s and Coca-Cola rose while General Motors fell after the companies reported earnings before the bell Tuesday.

Also this week, tech heavyweights Apple, Meta, Microsoft and Amazon are due to report results.

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