Wall Street drops on trade worries, S&P 500 nears correction

(Reuters) - U.S. stocks fell in a volatile session on Monday, with the benchmark S&P 500 index ending close to confirming its second correction of 2018, hurt by fresh worries about U.S.-China trade policy tensions and a sharp drop in the big technology and internet shares.

Following a morning rally, major U.S. indexes pulled back steeply after a Bloomberg report that the U.S. is preparing to announce tariffs on all remaining Chinese imports by early December if talks next month between presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping falter.

“Obviously this trade skirmish is metastasizing potentially into something worse than it already is,” said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia.

After the S&P 500 dropped more than 10 percent from its Sept. 20 record closing high during the session, the benchmark index pared its losses late to close down 9.9 percent from its peak. The Dow industrials also fell more than 10 percent from its Oct. 3 record close during the session, before ending down 8.9 percent from the mark.

On Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 245.39 points, or 0.99 percent, to 24,442.92, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 17.44 points, or 0.66 percent, to 2,641.25 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 116.92 points, or 1.63 percent, to 7,050.29.

Major technology and growth stocks, such as Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), Google parent Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) and Netflix Inc (NFLX.O), posted sharp declines. The S&P 500 technology sector .SPLRCT fell 1.8 percent.

The so-called FANG growth stocks - Facebook (FB.O), Amazon, Netflix and Alphabet - have lost more than $200 billion in market value in the past two sessions.

FANGs fall on hard times - tmsnrt.rs/2P1lsab

The industrials sector .SPLRCI, which is seen as sensitive to trade issues, dropped 1.7 percent, with Boeing Co (BA.N) tumbling 6.6 percent.

“The concern about global growth and global trade ... continues to create an overhang for U.S. corporations and global equities,” said Chad Morganlander, senior portfolio manager at Washington Crossing Advisors in Florham Park, New Jersey.

“Growth stocks typically do poorly in situations of global growth decelerating,” he said. “You set yourself up for a more defensive market until there’s a clear sign that investors can grab hold of.”

Market volatility has spiked in recent weeks, stemming from higher U.S. interest rates and worries about economic growth peaking and trade tensions. Investors also may be increasingly nervous about uncertainty surrounding U.S. congressional elections, now just a week away.

“Probably the most pervasive headwind is concern about midterm elections,” said Kristina Hooper, chief global market strategist at Invesco. “That is weighing down stocks, particularly technology as there is greater concern about regulation.”

Internet stocks also may have been wounded by Britain’s plan to tax the revenue from online platforms.

In corporate news, shares of software maker Red Hat Inc (RHT.N) surged 45.4 percent after the company agreed to be bought by IBM Corp (IBM.N) for $34 billion, but IBM shares fell 4.1 percent, weighing on the Dow and S&P.

Investors who are bullish about stocks point to strong corporate profits this year and economic growth, but there are also concerns about the extent of a slowdown in earnings growth next year, while weak housing data has raised some worries about the consumer.

Data on Monday showed U.S. consumer spending rose for a seventh consecutive month in September, but income recorded its smallest gain in more than a year amid moderate wage growth, suggesting the current pace of spending was unlikely to be sustained.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.45-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.45-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted three new 52-week highs and 65 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 23 new highs and 260 new lows.

About 9.3 billion shares changed hands in U.S. exchanges, above the 8.5 billion daily average over the last 20 sessions.

 

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