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Wall St falls after recent strong gains, Alphabet shares sink

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Traders work on the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., January 27, 2023. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

U.S. stocks ended down on Wednesday, paring most of the previous session’s strong gains, with tech-focused shares leading the way lower.

Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) was the biggest drag on the S&P 500 and Nasdaq. Its shares sank 7.7% after its new AI chatbot Bard delivered an incorrect answer in an online advertisement.

Adding to the cautious mood, Federal Reserve officials on Wednesday said more interest rate rises are in the cards as the U.S. central bank moves ahead with efforts to control inflation. None hinted though that January’s strong jobs report could drive more aggressive policy actions.

Fed Governor Christopher Waller said inflation seems poised to continue slowing this year but the U.S. central bank’s battle to reach its 2% target “might be a long fight” with monetary policy kept tighter for longer than anticipated.

Stocks rallied on Tuesday following Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s session before the Economic Club of Washington, where he said interest rates might need to move higher than expected if the U.S. economy remained strong, but said he felt a process of “disinflation” is under way.

“After this kind of run and a move to a valuation certainly in the richer camp, you need to have more evidence to keep the market climbing higher,” said Quincy Krosby, chief global strategist at LPL Financial in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Nasdaq remains up about 14% for the year to date.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI) fell 207.68 points, or 0.61%, to 33,949.01, the S&P 500 (.SPX) lost 46.14 points, or 1.11%, to 4,117.86 and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) dropped 203.27 points, or 1.68%, to 11,910.52.

All of the major S&P 500 sectors ended lower on the day, with communication services (.SPLRCL) falling 4.1% and technology (.SPLRCT) down 1.3%. The utilities (.SPLRCU) lost 1.7%.

Investors have been concerned about how aggressive the Fed’s actions may be this year following the surprisingly strong U.S. jobs report Friday.

They have also been concerned about mixed reports from U.S. companies this earnings season. With results in from more than half of the S&P 500 companies, earnings still are expected to have declined year-over-year in the fourth quarter of 2022, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

After the closing bell, shares of entertainment company Walt Disney (DIS.N) were up 1.6% following the release of its quarterly results. The stock ended the regular session up 0.1%.

Investors also were digesting comments from President Joe Biden‘s State of the Union address late Tuesday, when he supported calls to tax corporate share buybacks.

CVS Health Corp (CVS.N) ended the session up 3.5% after its $9.5 billion cash buyout offer for Oak Street Health Inc (OSH.N). Oak Street Health shares rose 4.6%.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 10.62 billion shares, compared with the 11.93 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 2.07-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.21-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 11 new 52-week highs and two new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 81 new highs and 35 new lows.

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