U.S. Stocks Slide After Trump Signals Further Delays to China Deal

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12/03/2019 | 04:00 pm

By Anna Isaac and Michael Wursthorn

Major U.S. stock indexes slid Tuesday after President Trump suggested a trade war with China could continue well into next year and threatened new tariffs on several more countries.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 326 points, or 1.2%, to 27457 shortly after the opening bell, while the S&P 500 declined 1.1%. The Nasdaq Composite fell 1.2%.

All three major indexes opened lower after Mr. Trump said he had "no deadline" for reaching a trade accord with China, and that he liked "the idea of waiting until after the election" to reach a deal during a meeting with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization secretary-general.

Investors had expected the U.S. and China to reach a phase one trade deal this month. Such a move would have likely staved off further tariff increases and signaled to investors that the two sides were working to de-escalate tensions after more than a year of contentious negotiations.

Now, that seems less likely, leading investors to pull back from risky assets, such as stocks, and load up again on investments considered safer during periods of economic turbulence, including gold and bonds.

Gold prices rose nearly 1% in recent trading, while the yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note fell to 1.762% from 1.835% a day earlier, according to Tradeweb.

"It's extremely difficult to base any investment thesis around trade, given how challenging the protagonists are," said Colin Reedie, co-head of global fixed income at Legal & General Investment Management. "It's been a fairly bullish risk environment, and markets are squeezing higher toward the end of the year, so they are a little bit more vulnerable to bad news."

Tuesday's losses also appeared to factor in Mr. Trump's threat to expand tariffs beyond imports from China. The Trump administration has proposed tariffs of up to 100% against $2.4 billion of French imports in response to a new French tax on some revenue that technology companies in France.

And on Monday, Mr. Trump said he would raise tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Brazil and Argentina.

"Tariffs will be a part of statecraft from now on," said Geoffrey Yu, head of the U.K. investment office at the wealth-management arm of UBS Group. "There are no allies when it comes to tariffs right now."

Investors broadly pulled back from stocks Tuesday following the global escalation in trade tariffs. Shares of tech, industrial, consumer discretionary, financial and material stocks in the S&P 500 all fell more than 1%.

Communication stocks also stumbled, shedding 0.8%.

Shares of utilities and real-estate firms, considered bond proxies for the hefty dividends they pay, meanwhile edged higher, as investors sought less risky investments.

The declines in the U.S. followed pullbacks in other stock markets around the world. The Stoxx Europe 600 was recently down 0.8%, while Japan's Nikkei slipped 0.6%. Hong Kong's Hang Seng also fell, shedding 0.2%.

Write to Anna Isaac at anna.isaac@wsj.com and Michael Wursthorn at Michael.Wursthorn@wsj.com

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