New U.S.-China trade worries pull stocks down

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 112.93 points Wednesday, to 27,821.09.
(Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)

Stocks on Wall Street closed broadly lower Wednesday as investors turned anxious about the possibility that the United States and China may not reach a trade deal before next year.

Technology stocks took the heaviest losses. Communication services and industrial stocks also were big losers. Banks fell as bond yields declined. Energy stocks notched the biggest gains as crude oil prices rebounded.

A news report suggested a “Phase 1” trade pact may not be completed this year as negotiators continue to wrestle over differences. China is pressing the United States to agree to broader tariff rollbacks on Chinese goods.

Investors have been hoping the world’s two biggest economies can make a deal before new and more damaging tariffs take effect Dec. 15 on about $160 billion worth of Chinese products. Those duties would cover smartphones, laptops and other consumer goods.


“If a deal is not going to get done before the end of the year, then all of a sudden this uncertainty comes back in around what’s going to happen around Dec. 15,” said Scott Ladner, chief investment officer at Horizon Investments. “Are the tariffs back on the table again? The market has certainly come to expect that those are not going to happen.”

The selling nudged the major U.S. stock indexes off their recent all-time highs.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index dropped 11.72 points, or 0.4%, to 3,108.46. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 112.93 points, or 0.4%, to 27,821.09.

The Nasdaq slid 43.93, or 0.5%, to 8,526.73. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks fell 6.68 points, or 0.4%, to 1,591.61.


Growing optimism among investors that the U.S. and China were making progress toward a limited trade deal helped pave the way for gains in the market in recent weeks.

But President Trump said Tuesday he was prepared to raise tariffs on Chinese exports if the nations can’t reach an agreement on trade.

The Senate may have complicated the path to a deal Wednesday, when it passed a resolution in support of human rights in Hong Kong after months of antigovernment protests there. China condemned the move and threatened “strong countermeasures.”

Technology and communication services companies were among the biggest losers Wednesday. HP fell 2%. AT&T slid 2.2%.


Citigroup dropped 1.2% as financial stocks fell along with bond yields. The yield on the 10-year Treasury slid to 1.74% from 1.78%. Falling bond yields hurt banks because they are a benchmark for the interest rates lenders charge on mortgages and other loans.

Energy companies held up better than the rest of the market as oil prices climbed 3.4%. ConocoPhillips shares rose 3.8%.

Benchmark crude oil rose $1.90 to settle at $57.11 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, rose $1.49 to close at $62.40 a barrel.

Utilities, real estate companies and makers of household goods also rose as traders favored stocks that pay higher dividends and are seen as relatively low-risk.


Investors also had their eye on the latest batch of quarterly results from big retailers.

Target surged 14.1% after handily beating Wall Street’s third-quarter earnings estimates and raising its profit forecast for the year.

Lowe’s rose 3.9% after posting a solid third quarter and raising its profit forecast for the year. The home improvement retailer has been working to improve profit and sales to better compete with rival Home Depot, which on Tuesday cut its profit forecast after reporting disappointing earnings. The stock dropped 2.2%.

Urban Outfitters plunged 15.2% after the clothing and accessories retailer fell short of Wall Street’s third-quarter profit and sales forecasts.


Wholesale gasoline rose 6 cents to $1.66 a gallon. Heating oil climbed 3 cents to $1.89 a gallon. Natural gas rose 5 cents to $2.56 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold, silver and copper prices were flat.