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'Recession Risks Are High': Fears Prompt Stock Plunge as Inflation, Spiking Gas Prices Hurt Average Americans

Markets in Turmoil
Traders working on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE via AP)

The number one issue on Americans' minds in this election year is inflation and the economy. High inflation rates and plenty of uncertainty about the state of the economy are sending chills through investors.

The stock market suffered a devastating day Wednesday following disappointing earnings reports from some of the top U.S. retail chains like Target and Walmart. And stocks continued their slide on Thursday pushing the S&P 500 to the brink of a bear market and warnings of a possible recession in the next year.

"Recession risks are high — uncomfortably high — and rising," Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, told the Washington Post. "For the economy to navigate through without suffering a downturn, we need some very deft policymaking from the Fed and a bit of luck."

Retailers led the declines across the stock market Wednesday, with Target being the worst performer in the S&P 500, dropping 24% after the company said that its costs for shipping were higher than expected and had hurt its earnings.

"Even though they had more sales, people are going to the stores more, the costs for Target are really increasing very fast," Seth Sutel with Associated Press said.

Shopping giant Walmart sounded similar alarm bells earlier in the week when it reported that its profits had fallen 25% from a year ago. "They are also having trouble with their profits because of inflation that they are feeling," said Sutel. "They're making much less money, way less money, like worse than Wall Street thought."

All this took a huge toll on markets Wednesday. The Dow plunged more than 1,100 points in its biggest one-day drop since 2020. The S&P 500 lost 4% and the Nasdaq was hit even worse, falling nearly 5%.

Inflation is hitting everyday people as well, with prices at the pump still rising. The cost of a gallon of regular gasoline has now hit another all-time high, nearly $4.59, and it's over $4 a gallon in every state.

In Philadelphia, gas prices have been crossing the $5 mark in multiple locations. "Everything is just getting too high," said Jeneen Thomas, a resident of Brewertown, PA. "Food, gas, everything, it's hard to make a living and go to work."

Experts say this summer could drive gas prices up much higher with increased demand as consumers hit the road. The increased cost of living is leaving many to wonder how they can even afford the things they need.

"Americans feel this," said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK). "This is what real life looks like when they're trying to figure out 'how am I going to buy groceries?' and all the different effects they are actually feeling."

Americans are now blaming President Biden and the war in Ukraine for the rising costs. A new survey from Morning Consult and Politico shows that 40% say Biden's policies were responsible for the high inflation.

"Right now we've got an administration whose plan is to blame anybody but them and their policies," said U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) during a press conference Wednesday.

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