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S&P 500 has its worst day of the year: Here’s why

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The S&P 500 nose dives off fresh interest rate fears and retailers sounding the alarm on a worsening economic backdrop.

US stocks plunged Tuesday as some Federal Reserve members called for a 50-basis-point rate hike as the producer price index and inflation remain high.

The stock market was closed on Monday for Presidents' Day.

But traders returning on Tuesday were not in a festive mood.

The S&P 500 slid 2.0%, recording its worst trading day of the year.

Even with the falls, the S&P 500 was actually the strongest performing of the 3 indexes. The Dow Jones dropped 2.06% while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite traded 2.50% lower.

The bond market is also up with both the 10- and 2-year treasury yields advancing to 3.9% and 4.7% respectively.

Why is the market falling?

The market is still being driven by inflation fears.

Traders are worried that high inflation will lead to the Federal Reserve having to lift rates, which could push the US economy into its second recession in just 3 years.

While retail sales have so far held up, major businesses are using their quarterly updates to warn the market of slowing consumer spending.

Walmart, the largest retailer in the US, says consumers are looking for a bargain, which could put pressure on its margins.

"While the supply chain issues have largely abated, prices are still high and there is considerable pressure on the consumer," Walmart CFO John Rainey told analysts during the company's fourth-quarter earnings call on Tuesday.

"Given the persistence of high prices and the potential for further macro pressures, we're taking a cautious outlook for the year," said Rainey.

Meanwhile, Home Depot forecasts some economic headwinds and predicts lower profits, higher supply chain costs and weaker demand.

All of this comes when investors were hoping retail earnings would show that the Federal Reserve was nearing the end of its rate hiking cycle.

The next indication investors will get is on Wednesday, when the Fed will release the minutes from its 31 January – 1 February meeting.

During that meeting, the Fed lifted rates by 25 basis points. However, St. Louis Fed president James Bullard came out in support of a 0.5% rate rise next time the Fed meets.

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