Wall Street sinks most in two months on Trump trade jabs

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On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 572.46 points, or 2.34 per cent, to 23,932.76.

President Donald Trump said Thursday that "in light of China's unfair retaliation" to proposed US tariffs on $50 billion worth of imports from the country, he had instructed the office of the US Trade Representative to "consider whether $100 billion of additional tariffs would be appropriate". Dow futures skidded 0.9 percent to 24,255.00 and broader S&P 500 futures sank 0.8 percent to 2,641.00. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gained 10 points, or 0.7 percent, to 1,522.

United States stocks opened sharply lower after China unveiled plans to hit major U.S. exports such as soybeans, cars and small aircraft with retaliatory tariffs, which seemed to portend a worsening tit-for-tat conflict between the world's two biggest economies.

Wall Street stocks finished solidly higher Wednesday after a rocky start as investors shifted from fearing an imminent US-China trade war, to resuming a wait-and-see approach. "I am much closer to President Trump on China than I was to President Bush, Republican, and President Obama, Democrat, because they let China get away with everything", he said. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 crept 0.1 percent higher but South Korea's Kospi slid 1.4 percent as the won weakened from the 3 ½ year high it touched against the dollar earlier this week. At the time of press the index is down 223 points but expected to fall further. Oil prices fell nearly 5 percent this week as investors wondered if an increase in trade tensions will reduce demand for oil by slowing down the global economy.

Facebook, Amazon, Alphabet and Netflix - collectively known as the "FANG" group - were up between 0.3 per cent and about 3 per cent.

The sell-off was triggered after China announced a list of US products that might be subject to a 25 percent tariff in retaliation for USA tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese goods.

The S&P opened below its 200-day moving average, a key technical level, but inched above as the session progressed, and by afternoon was in positive territory, joined by the Nasdaq and then the Dow.

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"The market wouldn't be acting almost as negative to all the news in general if it would not be in a vulnerable state already", said Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at The Leuthold Group in Minneapolis.

There wasn't much for investors to like in the government's latest jobs report either.

White House officials, including top economic adviser Larry Kudlow, have sought to ease business leaders' fears of a trade war that would slow down the economy.

Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 15/32 in price to push yields down to 2.7753 per cent. The U.S. economy has been humming along with a strong job market, while Brazil just past year emerged from its punishing recession and growth in the euro area has reached its highest level in a decade.

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 103,000 last month, the Labor Department said, the fewest in six months, but a pickup in wage gains pointed to a tightening labor market. Silver edged up 1 cent to $16.36 an ounce. The Philadelphia semiconductor index fell 0.54 per cent.

The largest percentage gainer on the TSX was Torex Gold Resources Inc, which rose 51.0 per cent, while the largest decliner was NexGen Energy Ltd, down 8.7 per cent.

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