After dozing away for most of August, Wall Street awoke with a start today as the specter of an interest rate hike helped send the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 394.46 points, or 2.1 percent, to 18,085.45 — the market’s sharpest drop since the Brexit vote in June.
Volume was heavy, with 121 million shares of Dow stocks trading hands instead of the 90 million average seen for the past three months.
The fashion fall out was severe, leaving executives jetting to and from shows for New York Fashion Week with an extra bit of uncertainty as they think about business in the run up to the all important holiday season.
Among the day’s decliners were Signet Jewelers Ltd., off 6 percent to $76.90; Kate Spade & Co., 5.1 percent to $18.09; Iconix Brand Group Inc., 4.7 percent to $8.07; Ascena Retail Group Inc., 4.3 percent to $7.58; G-III Apparel Group, 3.1 percent to $30.15; Amazon.com Inc., 3.1 percent to $760.14; Michael Kors Holdings, 2.9 percent to $47.73; Alibaba Group Holding, 2.9 percent to $99.62; L Brands Inc., 2.6 percent to $71.43, and Guess Inc., 2.6 percent to $15.02.
In the mixed up logic of Wall Street, the drop was spurred on by concerns that the economy was strengthening — at least enough to support higher interest rates that would curb excessive growth.
Any increase in interest rates would also make it harder to borrow money and limit stock market growth.
Investors thought they were in the clear last week after the government said August payrolls increased by just 126,000, below the 180,000 projected by economists.
But Eric Rosengren, the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, on Friday said a case could be made for higher rates.
“My personal view, based on data that we have received to date, is that a reasonable case can be made for continuing to pursue a gradual normalization of monetary policy,” he said.