Stocks Fall Over Trade Tensions, Weak Economic Reports

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Stocks fell in afternoon trading Monday on Wall Street as trade tensions flared with China’s diplomatic retaliation for U.S. support of protesters in Hong Kong.

The selling accelerated after the U.S. government issued weak manufacturing and construction reports.

Technology stocks were the biggest drag on the market. Many of the companies in that sector rely on China for sales and supply chains and can become very volatile with new developments in trade negotiations. Adobe fell 2.8% and Microsoft fell 1.7%.

Industrial companies and homebuilders also moved lower. Honeywell shed 1.8% and Hovnanian slumped 7.2%.

Communications stocks were also falling. Netflix shed 2.8% and Twitter fell 2.7%.

Energy companies held up the best as oil prices jumped 1.7%. ConocoPhillips rose 1.2% and Halliburton gained 1.2%.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index fell 0.7% as of noon Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 206 points, or 0.7%, to 27,843. The Nasdaq fell 1.1%. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks fell 0.7%.

FORGING GAINS: United States Steel rose 4% and AK Steel jumped 7.1% after President Donald Trump said the U.S. would impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Argentina and Brazil. Both South American nations were among a group of U.S. allies that Trump had exempted from steel and aluminum tariffs last year.

TRADE TENSIONS: Negotiations to end the longstanding trade war between the U.S. and China could face a tougher path in December following a flareup over Hong Kong. China said Monday it will suspend U.S. military ship and aircraft visits to the semi-autonomous territory and sanction several American pro-democracy groups in retaliation for the signing into law of legislation supporting anti-government protests.

President Trump has expressed concern that the legislation could affect negotiations. Wall Street is hoping that the nations can make progress toward at least stalling new tariffs scheduled for Dec. 15 on $160 billion worth of Chinese products, including smartphones and laptops.

ECONOMIC WATCH: Wall Street faces a busy week of reports that could provide a clearer picture of the economy’s health.

U.S. manufacturing shrank more than expected in November, according to figures released by the Institute for Supply Management on Monday. Manufacturing has been a weak spot in the broader economy. A separate report on the services sector, which makes up the bulk of the economy, is expected on Wednesday.

Also on Monday, the Commerce Department reported an unexpected drop in construction spending during October.

Investors will get a glimpse into the health of the jobs market on Wednesday when payroll processor ADP releases its survey for November. The Labor Department will release its closely watched employment data on Friday. Solid job growth, along with consumer spending, have been among the key factors pushing economic growth.

OVERSEAS: Asian markets moved higher. Chinese manufacturing expanded in November, according to separate reports from Caixin magazine and the China Federation for Logistics & Purchasing. Manufacturing has been a weak spot for China throughout the year.

European markets edged lower.