Wall Street falls as trade hopes wane

Traders work on the floor at the NYSE in New York
FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., November 27, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

December 3, 2019

By Stephen Culp

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. stocks sold off for a third consecutive session on Tuesday after comments from President Donald Trump and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross threw cold water on hopes of a possible near-term respite from the market-bruising U.S.-China trade war.

The blue-chip Dow had its worst day since Oct. 8, and all three major stock indexes backed further away from last week’s record highs that were fueled by optimism that an interim deal between the United States and China was in the works.

That optimism was dampened as Trump suggested a deal might have to wait until after the 2020 election, and separately, Ross confirmed that new tariffs on Chinese imports would take effect on Dec. 15 as scheduled, unless substantial progress was made.

Those remarks, on the heels of France’s threatened retaliation over potential new U.S. duties on French products, itself a retaliation against a proposed French “digital tax,” suggested that America’s hydra-headed tariff war against its major trading partners would continue to dominate markets for the foreseeable future.

“The setback in the Chinese trade negotiations, coupled with tariffs on the French with regard to the digital tax and tariffs on Brazil and Argentina for steel, when you add that up it was disappointing to the markets,” said Stephen Massocca, senior vice president at Wedbush Securities in San Francisco.

“The long-term impact of these negotiations could very well be positive, but the short-term implication portends a slowing of the economy and that’s not viewed well by the markets,” Massocca added.

Tariff-sensitive chipmakers fell, with the Philadelphia SE Semiconductor index dropping 1.5%, its worst day since Oct. 23.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average <.DJI> fell 280.23 points, or 1.01%, to 27,502.81, the S&P 500 <.SPX> lost 20.67 points, or 0.66%, to 3,093.2 and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> dropped 47.34 points, or 0.55%, to 8,520.64.

Nine of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500 were in negative territory, with Apple Inc <AAPL.O> and Intel Corp <INTC.O> weighing the most.

Energy <.SPNY>, financial <.SPSY> and trade-vulnerable industrial <.SPLRCI> stocks suffered the largest percentage losses.

Shares of AK Steel Holding Corp <AKS.N> rose 4.2% after miner Cleveland Cliffs <CLF.N> agreed to buy the company in an all-stock deal worth about $1.1 billion.

Audentes Therapeutics Inc’s <BOLD.O> shares soared 106.0% after Japan’s Astellas Pharma Inc <4503.T> said it would buy the U.S. drugmaker for about $3 billion in cash.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.63-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.65-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 2 new 52-week highs and 6 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 40 new highs and 76 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 7.41 billion shares, compared with the 6.83 billion average over the last 20 trading days.

(Reporting by Stephen Culp; Editing by Dan Grebler)