Stocks Sink on Growth Fears and Possible Snag in Trade Talks


Stocks fell sharply Tuesday following new signs the global economy is weakening and reports of difficulties in trade talks between the U.S. and China. That broke a four-day winning streak for U.S. indexes.

Major global indexes traded lower after the International Monetary Fund trimmed its economic forecasts for 2019 and 2020 and pointed to risks including trade tensions and rising interest rates. China’s government said its economy grew in 2018 at the slowest pace since 1990. U.S. stocks took further losses after the Financial Times reported that the Trump administration canceled a proposed a meeting with Chinese trade officials this week.

Technology and internet companies skidded while energy companies sank with oil prices. Industrial companies also fell, hurt by the slower growth forecast and trade concerns as well as some weak fourth-quarter earnings. Bond prices climbed as investors looked for safer investments.

“We began last year, 2018, with a synchronized global recovery, and what we have now is a slowdown globally,” said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial. She said the reported difficulty in trade talks “has shaken up confidence that the U.S. and China are moving closer in the negotiating phase.”

The S&P 500 index dropped 37.81 points, or 1.4 percent, to 2,632.90. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 301.87 points, or 1.2 percent, to 24,404.48. The Nasdaq composite fell 136.87 points, or 1.9 percent, to 7,020.36.

The IMF now says the global economy will grow 3.5 percent this year, down from its previous forecast of 3.7 percent. It cut its estimate for growth in 2020 to 3.6 percent from 3.7 percent. Earlier in the day, China reported its economy expanded by 6.6 percent in 2018.

Lately, global markets have rallied as investors began to feel that a slowdown in the world economy might not be that painful. The S&P 500 is up 5 percent in 2019 and has jumped 12 percent since hitting its recent low on Dec. 24. But Tuesday’s losses were a reminder that investors will remain sensitive to clues that the global economy is weakening, and the trade dispute may be the top threat to economic growth.

According to the Financial Times, two officials were scheduled to travel to the U.S. ahead of meetings between the U.S. and China’s top trade representatives next week. It said the meetings were canceled because of a lack of progress on some critical issues, which underscores how far apart the two sides remain.

Technology and industrial companies took some of the worst losses. Farm equipment company Deere fell 3.5 percent to $158.84. Among technology companies, chipmakers absorbed sharp losses. Nvidia fell 5.2 percent to $148.77.

Aluminum products maker Arconic slumped 16 percent to $17.09 after it said it is no longer considering a sale. Formerly a part of aluminum giant Alcoa, Arconic said it didn’t receive any offers it thought were in its best interests. The stock has gyrated over the last few months following reports the company was considering a sale.

Power tools maker Stanley Black and Decker sank 15.5 percent to $115.69 after its forecast for 2019 fell short of Wall Street estimates.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.74 percent from 2.78 percent.

Homebuilders also sank after U.S. home sales cratered in December and price growth declined to the lowest level in more than six years. The National Association of Realtors said Tuesday that sales of already-built homes plunged 6.4 percent. Years of rising prices and the more recent increase in mortgage rates have both affected sales, as has the limited number of homes available for sale.

EBay jumped 6.1 percent to $32.90 after activist investment firm Elliott Management disclosed a 4 percent stake in the online marketplace and pushed it to make changes. It said eBay’s classifieds and StubHub ticket resale division are both struggling, and eBay should consider separating them from its marketplace business.

British Prime Minister Theresa May presented her Plan B for Britain’s exit from the European Union on Monday, but it looks a lot like the original and it’s not clear if she can win approval in Parliament, which gave her previous plan a resounding “no” last week. The European Union has said it won’t renegotiate that deal.

Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union in a little more than two months, and if it doesn’t have a trade deal in place, it could cause major hardships for numerous companies, especially banks.

U.S. crude dipped 2.3 percent to $52.57 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 2 percent to $61.50 a barrel in London.

The British FTSE 100 index slid 1 percent. Germany’s DAX and CAC 40 in France both gave up 0.4 percent.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index shed 0.5 percent and the Kospi in South Korea sank 0.3 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 0.7 percent.

In other commodities trading, natural gas dropped 12.7 percent to $3.04 per 1,000 cubic feet. Wholesale gasoline fell 3.5 percent to $1.40 a gallon and heating oil slid 0.8 percent to $1.90 a gallon. Gold rose 0.1 percent to $1,283.40 an ounce and silver slipped 0.5 percent to $15.33 an ounce. Copper fell 2.2 percent to $2.66 a pound.