(Reuters) – U.S. stocks tumbled on Friday on fears of an escalating trade war between the United States and China after President Donald Trump threatened to slap $100 billion more in tariffs and Beijing warned it would fight back “at any cost.”
In light of China’s “unfair retaliation” against earlier U.S. trade actions, Trump upped the ante by ordering U.S. officials to identify extra tariffs, escalating a high stakes tit-for-tat confrontation.
China Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said the two countries have not recently held any negotiations, which are impossible under current conditions.
“The market was weak from get-go. It was an uncomfortable state to begin with, clearly the reaction from China to tariffs is clearly the only factor driving the markets today,” said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin.
After the initial round of tariffs earlier this week, the markets took comfort from Trump’s top economic adviser Larry Kudlow’s comments that Washington was involved in a negotiation with China rather than a trade war.
Kudlow told CNBC Friday he learnt of the new tariffs only last night. He told Bloomberg TV that negotiations had not yet started, but later said on Fox Business that talks are ongoing.
Kudlow’s comments on ongoing negotiations and a tepid March jobs report, which eased fears of faster interest rate hikes, had helped the market recoup some losses earlier in the day.
But that boost was short lived.
At 11:09 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 371.57 points, or 1.52 percent, at 24,133.65, the S&P 500 .SPX was down 31.67 points, or 1.19 percent, at 2,631.17 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was down 77.83 points, or 1.1 percent, at 6,998.72.
All 30 Dow components were in the red and each of the 11 major S&P sectors were lower, with the defensive utilities and real estate sectors falling the least.
As on Wednesday, industrials led the decliners. Boeing (BA.N), the single largest U.S. exporter to China, fell 2.5 percent. Caterpillar (CAT.N) declined 1.3 percent and Deere (DE.N) dropped about 2 percent.
Chipmakers, which as a group rely on China for about a quarter of their revenue, also declined. The Philadelphia semiconductor index .SOX fell 1.45 percent.
Nonfarm payrolls increased by a fewer-than-expected 103,000 last month, a Labor Department report showed. While the annual increase in average hourly earnings rose to 2.7 percent, it stayed below the 3-percent that economists say is needed to lift inflation toward the Federal Reserve’s 2-percent target.
“That’s not showing us wage inflation where the Fed would have to step in. This seems to be a natural improvement,” said Sean Lynch, co-head of global equity strategy, Wells Fargo Investment Institute in Omaha, Nebraska.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE for a 2.81-to-1 ratio and for a 2.47-to-1 ratio favoring decliners on the Nasdaq.
Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Sinead Carew in New York; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila