Wall Street falls, on track for weekly losses on trade war fears

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, US, February 7, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/Files

The Dow and S&P 500 fell on Friday and were on track for weekly losses as investor anxiety built over a possible global trade war following US President Donald Trump’s threat to impose import tariffs on steel and aluminium.

Europe has drawn up a list of US products from bourbon to Harley Davidson motorbikes on which to apply tariffs if Trump carries out his plan, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross played down the fears, saying “hysteria over tariffs is a lot to do over nothing”.

Trump’s announcement comes at a time when the markets were already on edge over rising US interest rates and bond yields, though some investors said a lot of details still need to be worked out.

“If (it is) the case, this could get bad, but we’re not there yet,” said Brad McMillan, chief investment officer for Commonwealth Financial Network. “I’m personally not reacting just yet ... I wouldn’t bet on any” impact to earnings at this point.

Shares in big US steel companies and manufacturers were under pressure on uncertainty over the effects of tariffs.

Shares in Caterpillar, a buyer of raw materials and a big exporter of construction machinery products, were down 2.6 percent after falling 2.8 percent in the previous day’s session. General Motors was down 1.9 percent.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 219.48 points (0.89 percent) to 24,389.5, the S&P 500 lost 4.64 points (0.17 percent) to 2,673.03, and the Nasdaq Composite added 23.09 points (0.32 percent) to 7,203.66.

McDonald’s dropped 5.2 percent after RBC lowered its price target on the stock and cut its 2018 earnings estimate, citing a disappointing early sales impact from McDonald’s value menu. The stocks were the biggest drag on the S&P and the Dow.

J.C. Penney Co Inc shares fell 5.5 percent after the department store chain missed same-store sales estimates.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.05-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.01-to-1 ratio favoured advancers.

The S&P 500 posted no new 52-week highs and 25 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 50 new highs and 63 new lows.