Fresh market jitters over the possibility of an escalation in the costly trade war between the U.S. and China pulled stocks broadly lower on Wall Street today.
President Donald Trump threatened over the weekend to raise tariffs on goods imported from China. Trump complained that the trade talks between the two countries are moving too slowly.
Stocks slumped early but then gradually recovered a good portion of the losses, a sign that investors’ hopes of a trade deal haven’t dimmed entirely. China remained committed to sending a delegation to talks later this week in Washington despite the Trump threat, and some investors appeared to conclude that the president’s warning was just more high-stakes posturing.
However, after the market closed, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said that the tariff increases that Trump threatened to impose on China would go into effect 12:01 a.m. Eastern time Friday. He did say negotiations would resume Thursday in Washington.
The ratcheting up of the trade rhetoric from Washington came after the U.S. and China sent signals in recent months that talks on resolving the dispute were progressing.
Hopes for an accord between the world’s two largest economies contributed to the big run-up in stock prices in the U.S. and China so far this year. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq hit all-time highs last week.
However, investors have gotten their hopes up that the trade issue was close to being resolved a number of times in recent months, only to be disappointed when new flare-ups arose.
U.S. companies with heavy business interests in China bore the brunt of the selling today, particularly technology and industrial companies. Banks also fell sharply. Health care stocks rose.
The S&P 500 dropped 13.17 points, or 0.4%, to 2,932.47. At one point, the benchmark index had been down 1.6%.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 66.47 points, or 0.3%, to 26,438.48. It had been down as much as 471 points in the first few minutes of trading.
“You’ve seen that the sell-off has been so far contained and part of that is the perception that the president has done this before,” said Marina Severinovsky, investment strategist at Schroders.
The Nasdaq slid 40.71 points, or 0.5%, to 8,123.29. The Russell 2000 index of small company stocks bucked the trend, adding 0.95 points, or 0.1%, to 1,614.98.
Major indexes in Europe and Asia finished lower.
The U.S. and China have raised tariffs on tens of billions of dollars of each other’s goods in their dispute over U.S. complaints about Chinese technology ambitions.
Trump turned up the heat Sunday when he threatened to raise tariffs on imports from China to 25% from 10%. He also said he would impose tariffs on another $325 billion in imports from China, covering everything the country ships annually to the United States.
Tariffs currently in place have already raised costs on goods for companies and consumers, and disrupted trade in goods from soybeans to medical equipment.
Many sectors of the market posted declines today, including technology, industrial and materials companies, retailers and banks.
Qualcomm, which gets 64.7% of its revenue from China, according to the data provider FactSet, fell 1.2%. Broadcom slid 1.3% and Apple dropped 1.5%.
Chipmakers Micron Technology and Advance Micro Devices each dropped 2.8%.
Industrial behemoth Caterpillar lost 1.7%, while Deere & Co. gave up 4%.
Wynn Resorts, with a host of casinos and hotels in Macau, gets about 75% of its revenue from China. Its stock tumbled 4.1%.
Investors fled to safer holdings. Bond prices rose, sending the 10-year Treasury yield down to 2.50% from 2.53% late Friday.
Chinese indexes plunged. The Shanghai Composite index closed 5.6% lower and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index sank 2.9%. European indexes fell broadly.
Shares of Chinese companies that trade in the U.S. also fell. J.D.com slid 4.5%, while internet search company Baidu dropped 1.5%.
Investors have been digesting mixed reports about the U.S.-China trade talks for months and have largely discounted concerns about a failure in negotiations. The broader market has been posting gains all year on encouraging economic growth and solid corporate earnings results.
Elsewhere in the market, Boeing fell 1.3% after it disclosed that it did not warn airlines about a faulty safety alert until after one of its planes crashed.
The sensors malfunctioned during an October flight in Indonesia and another in March in Ethiopia, causing software on the plane to push the nose down. Pilots were unable to regain control of either plane and both crashed, killing 346 people.
Energy futures closed mostly lower. Benchmark U.S. crude rose 0.5% to settle at $62.25 per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, gained 0.6% to close at $71.24.
Wholesale gasoline fell 1.5% to $2 per gallon. Heating oil slipped 0.1% to $2.07 per gallon. Natural gas dropped 1.7% to $2.52 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Gold gained 0.2% to $1,283.80 per ounce, silver lost 0.3% to $14.93 per ounce and copper added 0.4% to $2.83 per pound.
The dollar fell to 110.90 Japanese yen from 111.09 yen late Friday. The euro strengthened to $1.1203 from $1.1194.