Stocks Ended Sharply Lower on Rate-hike Fears

U.S. stocks ended broadly lower on Wednesday, wiping out early gains after strong data on job openings stoked fears the Federal Reserve could move to hike interest rates as early as next week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 239.11 points, or 1.45%, to 16,253.57. The S&P 500 fell 27.37 points, or 1.39%, to 1,942.04. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 55.40 points, or 1.15%, to 4,756.53.

U.S. job openings surged to a record high in July, but a slightly slower pace of hiring suggested employers were having trouble finding qualified workers, a trend that could eventually boost wages. Job openings, a measure of labor demand, increased 430,000 to a seasonally adjusted 5.8 million, the Labor Department said in its monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey on Wednesday.

Federal Reserve officials aren’t near an agreement to begin raising short-term interest rates heading into a crucial week of private discussions before their Sept. 16-17 policy meeting, according to their recent comments. Wednesday marked the beginning of the Fed’s self-imposed blackout, the period when officials stop communicating with the public ahead of a policy meeting and begin a week of internal deliberations and staff briefings.

Oil prices tumbled Wednesday as expectations of another increase in US inventories added to worries about the global oversupply. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for delivery in October slid $1.79 to $44.15 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Media company 21st Century Fox Inc. and the National Geographic Society on Wednesday announced a new joint venture combining National Geographic television channels with Fox’s other media. The transaction, expected to close later this year, is valued at $725 million. Fox will own 73% of the entity.

Macy’s Inc. (M) announced plans Tuesday to close 35 to 40 underperforming stores in early 2016. The store closures represent about 1% of the company’s sales.

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