US stocks slip as trade war rhetoric escalates

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March 23, 2018 8:14 pm Published by

U.S. stock markets ended their worst week in more than two years on Friday after China threatened to respond in kind to President Trump’s imposition of $60 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports.

The Dow Jones industrial average plummeted in the last hours of a bouncy day Friday and closed down 424 points, 1.77 percent. The Dow shed 1,100 points in the last two trading days.

The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index was down 2.1 percent; and tech-heavy Nasdaq fell 2.4 percent as its stalwart Facebook declined nearly 14 percent for the week as it faced a crisis over data misuse. The social-media giant is down 9.7 percent this year.

The Dow is on pace for one of its worst-performing months since 2015 as investors grow anxious that Trump’s trade policies and their fallout could upset a robust global economy. U.S. markets fell swiftly earlier this year when he imposed steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

The Dow is down nearly 5 percent in 2018. The S&P is down 3.2 percent year to date, while the Nasdaq Composite is hanging onto positive territory.

Despite the craziness, some money managers cautioned that the U.S. economy remains fundamentally strong, aided by a tax cut, repatriation of corporate profits and a budget bill signed by President Trump on Friday that includes the largest hike in military spending in 15 years.

“This market is oversold,”said John Lynch, chief investment strategist at LPL Financial. “The worst of the fears are being priced into the market these past two days as the Dow is down 1,100 points or so. The combination of fiscal stimulus and corporate profits will overwhelm tariffs.”

The wild week wasn’t all about tariffs. Facebook’s deepening crisis and the Federal Reserve raising rates Wednesday rattled shaky investors. Markets went deep red on Thursday, with the Dow Jones industrials dropping 724 points — nearly 3 percent — as Trump signaled his trade offensive against China.

The Chinese government fired back within hours with its own threat to hit $3 billion in U.S. goods with tariffs. Trump’s announcement was “typical unilateralism and protectionism,” China’s Commerce Ministry said in a statement, and it had set a “very bad precedent.”

“China does not want to fight a trade war, but it is absolutely not afraid of a trade war,” it said.

The threat of a tit-for-tat dragged down European and Asian financial markets with indexes in Tokyo, Shanghai and Seoul taking heavy losses. The German DAX was down 1.77 percent and the British FTSE 100 droped .44 percent.

China said the slides support its stance.

“I think this represents a vote of no-confidence in the relevant U.S. policies and actions,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying. “It also demonstrated that the international community is concerned about the recklessness and danger of U.S. policies and actions.”

China said Thursday it would impose tariffs on up to 128 products imported from the United States, with most of the pain expected to land on American agriculture, including fruit and wine. China is a big importer of American-produced food, especially staples such as soybeans.

The Dow blue-chip index of 30 bellwether stocks is now firmly in correction territory from its Jan. 26 peak. A 10 percent decline from its high earlier this year is considered a correction.

The S&P 500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite are also in retreat as investors nervously digested the trade volleys coming out of Washington and Beijing. They were down 2.5 and 2.4 percent respectively Thursday.

The Dow and S&P 500 are in negative territory for 2018. The Nasdaq is still 3 percent in the black despite taking a beating this week.

The Federal Reserve also roiled markets when it raised interest rates a quarter point a Wednesday with a plan to raise them more in the near future.

Simon Denyer in Beijing and David J. Lynch in Washington contributed to this report.

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