Wall Street falls amid fears of trade war with China

A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shortly after the opening bell in New York February 14, 2018. — Reuters picA trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shortly after the opening bell in New York February 14, 2018. — Reuters picNEW YORK, March 15 — US stocks fell on yesterday after President Donald Trump sought to impose fresh tariffs on China, intensifying fears of a trade war that could raise costs and hurt overseas sales for US companies.

The Trump administration is pressing China to cut its trade surplus with the United States by US$100 billion, the White House said yesterday.

Trump is looking to levy tariffs on up to US$60 billion (RM233.9 billion) of Chinese imports, targeting the technology, telecom and apparel sectors, sources told Reuters on Tuesday.

As earnings season has ended, the latest developments in Washington are even more prominent for investors, said Brad McMillan, chief investment officer at Commonwealth Financial Network in Waltham, Massachusetts.

“Certainly, from an economic standpoint, the potential effect of tariffs continues to rattle through the markets,” he said.

“We're in a wallowing period where there's not as much good news coming out.”

Trump has already imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports as well as on solar panels and washing machines, sparking threats of retaliation from some trade partners.

Boeing Co, which investors say may be particularly vulnerable to retaliation, tumbled 2.5 per cent, leading the losers on the Dow.

Stocks briefly pared losses after economic analyst and commentator Larry Kudlow, who has supported free trade measures in the past, said yesterday he had accepted an offer to replace Gary Cohn as the White House's top economic adviser.

In an interview with CNBC just before the market close, Kudlow said he believed tougher trade measures against China were warranted.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 248.91 points, or 1 per cent, to end at 24,758.12, the S&P 500 lost 15.83 points, or 0.57 per cent, to 2,749.48 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 14.20 points, or 0.19 per cent, to 7,496.81.

Also weighing on investor sentiment was data that showed US retail sales fell for a third straight month in February, pointing to a slowdown in economic growth in the first quarter.

Financial stocks fell 1.2 per cent, tracking a decline in US bond yields.

Signet Jewelers fell 20.2 per cent after the company gave a disappointing full-year earnings forecast.

Ford rose 2.2 per cent after Morgan Stanley upgraded the stock to "overweight" from "underweight" and raised its earnings estimate on the automaker.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.35-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.53-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 12 new 52-week highs and five new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 96 new highs and 41 new lows.

Volume on US exchanges was 6.53 billion shares, compared to the 7.14 billion average over the last 20 trading days. — Reuters