Stock Market Today: Stocks Fall as Bitcoin Booms

While the main indexes retreated ahead of tomorrow's inflation data, Bitcoin hit its highest level in two years.

image of bitcoin symbol on fire with black background
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Stocks closed lower Wednesday with investors' anxiety ramping up ahead of tomorrow's highly anticipated inflation update. But while the main indexes churned in negative territory, there was plenty of green tape to be found – including in the cryptocurrency space, where Bitcoin boomed to its highest level in two years.  

There was little to "spark a fresh wave of enthusiasm" before tomorrow morning's release of the Personal Consumption and Expenditures (PCE) price index, says Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets at Hargreaves Lansdown

The data, which tracks consumer spending, is the Fed's preferred measure of inflation, and it's garnering more attention than usual this time around following recent hot readings in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the Producer Price Index (PPI).

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The January PCE index is "expected to show that inflation is being stubborn, with a small uptick expected," Streeter adds, continuing a "bumpy" path down from sky-high price increases.

Bitcoin hits highest level in two years

While inflation is top of mind for investors, there were plenty of headlines today to capture Wall Street's attention. Bitcoin prices, for one, topped out above the $61,000 level for the first time since November 2021. 

Gautam Chhugani, senior analyst of Global Digital Assets at Bernstein, says this latest surge came as bitcoin ETFs (exchange-traded funds) have seen an "unprecedented" amount of net inflows, bringing in $1.1 billion over the past two days. 

Whatever the catalyst, the positive price action had a halo effect on several crypto-related stocks, with Marathon Digital Holdings (MARA, +2.4%) and MicroStrategy (MSTR, +10.5%) among the day's biggest gainers.

Beyond Meat surges after earnings 

As for single stocks, Beyond Meat (BYND) was a big mover after the plant-based protein maker reported earnings, surging 30.7%. While the company reported a wider-than-expected loss of $2.40 per share, revenue of $73.7 million beat analysts' estimates. 

Additionally, CEO Ethan Brown said in the earnings call that Beyond Meat is taking "major steps" to return to growth, including "a steep reduction in operating costs and cash use." Indeed, at the end of 2023, the company said it is cutting its global workforce by 19%.

Still, most analysts are skeptical of Beyond Meat. Of the 14 covering the consumer staples stock tracked by S&P Global Market Intelligence, six say it's a Hold, four have it at Sell and four rate it a Strong Sell. This works out to a consensus Sell recommendation.

As for her Sell rating on BYND, Argus Research analyst Taylor Conrad says that while "recent actions will help," increased competition and declining demand for plant-based protein will continue to create challenges for the company.

UnitedHealth drags on Dow after WSJ report

Elsewhere, UnitedHealth Group (UNH) was the worst Dow Jones stock Wednesday, tumbling 3.0%. The stumble comes after a report in The Wall Street Journal revealed the Justice Department has opened an antitrust investigation into the healthcare insurance giant.

At roughly $498 a share, UNH has the greatest weighting of all 30 stocks in the price-weighted Dow Jones Industrial Average, and so it more than contributed to the blue chip benchmark's 0.1% decline to 38,949. The S&P 500 finished down 0.2% at 5,069, while the Nasdaq Composite slipped 0.6% to 15,947. 

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Karee Venema
Senior Investing Editor,

With over a decade of experience writing about the stock market, Karee Venema is the senior investing editor at She joined the publication in April 2021 after 10 years of working as an investing writer and columnist at Schaeffer's Investment Research. In her previous role, Karee focused primarily on options trading, as well as technical, fundamental and sentiment analysis.