U.S. Stocks Stumble Amid Trade Tensions, Weak Economic Data


Technology companies led a broad slide for stocks on Wall Street Monday, handing the market a downbeat start to the month after notching strong gains in November.

Industrial, communication services and financial stocks also accounted for a big share of the sell-off. Energy stocks notched the biggest gain, aided by a 1.4% increase in the price of U.S. crude oil. Bond yields rose.

Trade tensions flared with China’s diplomatic retaliation for U.S. support of protesters in Hong Kong, putting investors in a selling mood. The selling accelerated after the U.S. government issued weak manufacturing and construction spending reports.

Wall Street has been hoping that the world’s two biggest economies can make progress toward at least stalling new tariffs scheduled for Dec. 15 on $160 billion worth of Chinese products, including smartphones and laptops. The latest friction between Washington and Beijing could hamper that progress.

The S&P 500 index fell 27.11 points, or 0.9%, to 3,113.87. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 268.37 points, or 1%, to 27,783.04.

The Nasdaq lost 97.48 points, or 1.1%, to 8,567.99. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks gave up 16.92 points, or 1%, to 1,607.58.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.82% from 1.77% late Friday.

The stumbling start to December is a departure from the market’s strong performance last month. The S&P 500 closed out November with its best monthly gain since June. Last week also marked the benchmark index’s seventh weekly gain in eight weeks. In that time span, the S&P 500, Dow Jones Industrial Average and Nasdaq each set multiple record closing highs.

Investor optimism that the U.S. and China were nearing a trade deal helped spur the market’s milestone-setting run this fall.

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 against Washington for enacting into law legislation supporting anti-government protests.

New data on manufacturing and construction spending also helped drag stock indexes lower Monday.

U.S. manufacturing shrank more than expected in November, according to figures released by the Institute for Supply Management.

Homebuilders fell broadly after the government report showing that spending on construction projects declined unexpectedly in October. Hovnanian Enterprises slumped 6.9%.

Technology stocks were the biggest drag on the market Monday. 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 2.2% and Microsoft slid 1.2%.

Industrial and communication services companies also moved lower. Honeywell shed 2.4% and Netflix dropped 1.5%.

Energy stocks held up the best as oil prices rose. Halliburton gained 1.4%.

Benchmark crude oil rose 79 cents to settle at $55.96 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, gained 43 cents to close at $60.92 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline fell 2 cents to $1.57 per gallon. Heating oil climbed 1 cent to $1.89 per gallon. Natural gas rose 5 cents to $2.33 per 1,000 cubic feet.