Stocks drop 4 per­cent in rocky week on trade, growth wor­ries

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - BUSINESS - By Alex Veiga

Wall Street capped a tur­bu­lent week of trading Fri­day with the big­gest weekly loss since March as traders fret over ris­ing trade ten­sions be­tween Washington and Bei­jing and sig­nals of slower eco­nomic growth.

The lat­est wave of sell­ing erased more than 550 points from the Dow Jones In­dus­trial Av­er­age, bring­ing its three-day loss to more than 1,400. For the week, ma­jor in­dexes are down more than 4 per­cent.

Wor­ries that the testy U.S.-China trade dis­pute and higher in­ter­est rates will slow the econ­omy have made in­vestors un­easy, lead­ing to volatile swings in the mar­ket from one day to the next.

On Mon­day, news that the U.S. and China had agreed to a 90-day truce in their es­ca­lat­ing trade con­flict drove stocks sharply higher, ad­ding to strong gains the week be­fore. The next day, as doubts mounted over the like­li­hood of a swift res­o­lu­tion to the trade dis­pute, stocks sank.

That sell-off ex­tended to Thurs­day, when U.S. stock mar­kets re­opened for trading af­ter a na­tional day of mourn­ing for for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush. An early plunge knocked 700 points off the Dow as in­vestors wor­ried the ar­rest of a se­nior Chi­nese tech­nol­ogy com­pany of­fi­cial would un­der­mine trade ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween Washington and Bei­jing, but stocks bounced nearly all the way back by the end of the day on news that the Fed­eral Re­serve was con­sid­er­ing a wait-and­see ap­proach to its in­ter­est rate hikes.

That op­ti­mism fu­eled a rally early Fri­day, which faded into an­other sharp drop.

“We’re in a mar­ket where in­vestors just want to sell any up­side that they see,” said Lind­sey Bell, in­vest­ment strate­gist at CFRA. “The volatil­ity we’ve seen the last cou­ple of weeks has been pretty ex­treme in both direc­tions.”

The S&P 500 in­dex fell 2.3 per­cent. The in­dex has ended lower three out of the last four weeks. The Dow dropped 2.2 per­cent. The tech-heavy Nas­daq com­pos­ite slid 3 per­cent.

The S&P 500 and Dow are now in the red for the year again. The Nas­daq was hold­ing on to a mod­est gain.

The cur­rent bull mar­ket for stocks, which be­gan in March 2009, has shown signs of sput­ter­ing this year, with the S&P 500 en­ter­ing into a cor­rec­tion, or drop of 10 per­cent from a re­cent high, twice this year. The in­dex is now down 10.2 per­cent from its all­time high on Sept. 20.

The mar­ket is now on track for its worst year since 2008, when the S&P 500 ended with a 38.5 per­cent loss.

Volatil­ity has gripped the mar­ket since early Oc­to­ber, re­flect­ing in­vestors’ wor­ries that the Fed­eral Re­serve might raise in­ter­est rates too ag­gres­sively as it tries to keep in­fla­tion in check, po­ten­tially slow­ing eco­nomic growth.

“The Fed has taken the punch bowl away in get­ting back to rates where they are to­day,” said Doug Cote, chief mar­ket strate­gist for Voya In­vest­ment Man­age­ment. “We’re also go­ing to get back to more nor­mal volatil­ity.”

Traders also fear that a pro­longed trade dis­pute be­tween the U.S. and China could crimp cor­po­rate prof­its and that tar­iffs will raise costs for busi­nesses and con­sumers. Uncer­tainty over those is­sues helped drive the mar­ket’s sell-off this week.

The U.S. has an­nounced tar­iffs on $250 bil­lion in Chi­nese im­ports this year, with the tax rate on many prod­ucts set to rise Jan. 1, while China put new taxes on $110 bil­lion in U.S. goods.

Last week­end, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and his Chi­nese coun­ter­part Xi Jin­ping agreed over din­ner at the G-20 sum­mit in Ar­gentina to a tem­po­rary, 90-day stand-down in the two na­tions’ trade con­flict to al­low time to smooth out a dis­pute over Chi­nese tech­nol­ogy poli­cies that the U.S. and other trading part­ners con­sider preda­tory.

Trump agreed to hold off on plans to raise tar­iffs on $200 bil­lion in Chi­nese goods. In re­turn, Xi agreed to buy a “very sub­stan­tial amount” of agri­cul­tural, en­ergy and in­dus­trial prod­ucts from the U.S. to re­duce its large trade deficit with China.

The devel­op­ment, and the boost it gave the mar­ket, didn’t last, how­ever. An­a­lysts be­gan to ques­tion whether the Trump-Xi talks put both sides any closer to re­solv­ing their dif­fer­ences.

The ar­rest of a se­nior Chi­nese tech­nol­ogy ex­ec­u­tive, which was dis­closed on Wed­nes­day, also could com­pli­cate trade ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Cana­dian au­thor­i­ties ar­rested Meng Wanzhou, chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer at China’s Huawei Tech­nolo­gies, for pos­si­ble ex­tra­di­tion to the U.S. Meng, a prom­i­nent mem­ber of Chi­nese so­ci­ety, is sus­pected of try­ing to evade U.S. trade curbs on Iran.

RICHARD DREW — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

Trader Michael Mi­lano, right, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Wall Street capped a tur­bu­lent week of trading Fri­day with the big­gest weekly loss since March as traders fret over ris­ing trade ten­sions be­tween Washington and Bei­jing and sig­nals of slower eco­nomic growth.

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