Why is the ASX 200 index crashing 1.5% on Wednesday?

Investors have been smashing the sell button today. But why?

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The S&P/ASX 200 Index (ASX: XJO) is breaking hearts on Valentine's Day and is a sea of red in early trade.

At the time of writing, the benchmark index is down 1.5% to 7,491 points.

Almost all sectors are deep in the red, with investors selling shares indiscriminately.

Here's a quick summary of how a number of popular ASX 200 shares are performing:

  • BHP Group Ltd (ASX: BHP) shares have dropped 1.5%
  • JB Hi-Fi Limited (ASX: JBH) shares are down 3%
  • Pilbara Minerals Ltd (ASX: PLS) shares have fallen 3%
  • Westpac Banking Corp (ASX: WBC) shares are down 1.5%
  • Xero Ltd (ASX: XRO) shares are 2% lower

Why is the ASX 200 sinking?

Investors have been hitting the sell button in a panic today following a selloff on Wall Street which saw the Dow Jones drop 1.35%, the S&P 500 index fall 1.4%, and the Nasdaq index crash 1.8%.

This was driven by the release of inflation data that was much hotter than expected, sparking fears that interest rate cuts are still some way off.

According to CNBC, the US consumer price index rose 0.3% in January from December and 3.1% on an annual basis. Whereas economists were expecting CPI to have increased by 0.2% month over month in January and 2.9% from a year earlier.

Furthermore, excluding volatile food and energy prices, core CPI accelerated 0.4% in January and was up 3.9% from a year ago.

Quincy Krosby, chief global strategist at LPL Financial, commented:

The much-anticipated CPI report is a disappointment for those who expected inflation to edge lower allowing the Fed to begin easing rates sooner rather than later. Across the board numbers were hotter than expected making certain that the Fed will need more data before initiating a rate cutting cycle.

Motley Fool contributor James Mickleboro has positions in Westpac Banking Corporation and Xero. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has positions in and has recommended Xero. The Motley Fool Australia has positions in and has recommended Xero. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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