By Stephen Culp
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wall Street took a pounding on Monday after China defied Washington by announcing retaliatory tariffs on $60 billion in U.S. goods in the latest salvo in the two countries’ increasingly belligerent trade dispute, sending investors fleeing equities for less risky assets.
The widespread sell-off pulled all three major U.S. indexes significantly lower, with the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq set to show their biggest one-day percentage drops of the year and the Dow on track for its largest percentage drop since Jan 3.
China said it would impose higher tariffs on various U.S. goods despite President Trump’s warnings not to retaliate against tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports announced by the White House on Friday. The move stoked fears of a global economic downturn.
“With the ultimate trade outcome inherently uncertain and difficult to model or predict, investors are selling first and asking questions later,” said Alec Young, managing director of Global Markets Research at FTSE Russell in New York.
Michael O’Rourke, chief market strategist at JonesTrading in Greenwich, Connecticut, agreed.
“The market is starting to realize the situation is as bad as it could be,” O’Rourke said. “There’s a lot of risk here.”
Investors responded to that perceived risk by fleeing equities for safe-haven assets.
U.S. Treasury yields fell to six-week lows, with 10-year yields falling below those of 3-month bills, an inversion seen by many as a potential harbinger of recession.
Gold prices rose to a one-month high.
The CBOE Volatility index, a gauge of investor anxiety, looked set for its biggest daily point gain so far this year.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 665.92 points, or 2.57%, to 25,276.45, the S&P 500 lost 73.25 points, or 2.54%, to 2,808.15 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 261.17 points, or 3.3%, to 7,655.77.
Of the 11 major sectors of the S&P 500, all but utilities were in the red, with the largest percentage declines coming from trade-sensitive tech and industrials.
Among stocks especially vulnerable to U.S.-China tariffs, Boeing Co slid 4.6% and Caterpillar Inc fell 5.2% while the Philadelphia Chip index was down 4.7%, setting a course for its biggest percentage drop since Jan. 3 and extending last week’s 6% decline.
Shares of Apple Inc sank 5.6% on the double-whammy of heightened trade tensions and a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to allow an antitrust suit against the company for monopolizing the iPhone app market.
Uber Technologies Inc extended its slide, falling 11.0% on its second day as a public company following Friday’s underwhelming debut.
Ride-hailing peer Lyft Inc as also down, dropping 6.8%.
Shares of Tesla Inc fell 5.3%, on track to close at their lowest in more than two years.
First quarter reporting season is in the home stretch, and of the 451 companies in the S&P 500 that have posted results, 75.2% have come in above expectations.
Analysts now see an S&P 500 earnings increase 1.3% for the Jan-March period, significantly better than the 2% decrease expected on April 1.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 5.50-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, a 6.06-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 10 new 52-week highs and 22 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 23 new highs and 143 new lows.
(Reporting by Stephen Culp; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)