A tumultuous May for markets ended almost exactly where it started in equities, with a late-session drop Tuesday depositing the S&P 500 less than a point higher than its level a month ago. It was an ironic end to a month that saw volatility surge and debates rage around inflation, the Federal Reserve’s plan to subdue it and the impact on the economy.
The S&P 500 was fell 0.6% on Tuesday, bringing its monthly return to virtually zero. During the month of May, the benchmark index surged more than 8% after falling within points of a 20% drop from a record, signifying a bear market.
Ten-year Treasury yields climbed 12 basis points to 2.85%, just below where they started the month. West Texas Intermediate oil was little changed, leaving it 10% higher in the month. And Bitcoin held above $31,000, down 17% in May.
Equities began the day lower on worries inflation was proving more persistent, intensifying the debate over how quickly central banks will raise interest rates. Euro-zone consumer prices jumped 8.1% to a record from a year earlier in May. Meanwhile, WTI crude oil pared gains from a partial ban on Russian oil by the European Union. The dollar advanced.
Fears central-bank rate hikes may tip the economy into a recession are keeping investors watchful as rising food and energy costs squeeze consumers. May saw nearly unprecedented volatility in stocks as the S&P 500 plunged more than 3% three different times and capped its longest streak of weekly losses since 2001 only to surge at the month’s end.