Wall St. set to fall at open as Trump signals delay in China trade deal


By Stephen Culp

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wall Street set course for its third consecutive sell-off on Tuesday as investor optimism over a potential near-term respite from the U.S.-China trade war evaporated following commentary from President Donald Trump and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

All three major stock indexes stepped further away from last week’s record highs that were fueled by hopes that an interim deal between the United States and China was in the offing.

Those hopes dimmed as President Trump suggested a deal might have to wait until after the 2020 election, and separately, Secretary Ross confirmed that new tariffs on Chinese imports would go into effect on Dec. 15 as scheduled, unless substantial progress was made.

These comments, 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.

“We’ve seen this happen numerous times, where there’s a trade disappointment and there’s a stock market sell-off,” said Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama. “There’s disappointment that ‘phase 1’ (of a U.S.-China deal) has been pushed back.”

Tariff-sensitive chipmakers were down, with the Philadelphia SE Semiconductor index falling 2.0%, on track for its worst day in nearly two months.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) fell 357.45 points, or 1.29%, to 27,425.59, the S&P 500 (SPX) lost 29.61 points, or 0.95%, to 3,084.26 and the Nasdaq Composite (IXIC) dropped 79.97 points, or 0.93%, to 8,488.01.

Nine the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500 were in negative territory, with momentum stocks Apple Inc (O:AAPL) and Amazon.com (O:AMZN) weighing heaviest.

Financials (SPSY), consumer discretionary (SPLRCD) and energy (SPNY) stocks, as well as trade-vulnerable industrial (SPLRCI) and tech (SPLRCT) sectors suffered the largest percentage losses.

Shares of AK Steel Holding Corp (N:AKS) rose 3.3% after miner Cleveland Cliffs (N:CLF) agreed to buy the company in an all-stock deal worth about $1.1 billion.

Audentes Therapeutics Inc’s (O:BOLD) shares soared by 105.5% after Japan’s Astellas Pharma Inc (T:4503) said it would buy the U.S. drugmaker for about $3 billion in cash.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.80-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.82-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 1 new 52-week highs and 5 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 29 new highs and 63 new lows.

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