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Tech stocks lead Wall St. slump as investors shun risk

Kitco News

(Reuters) - Wall Street tumbled on Wednesday as investors dumped high-growth names such as technology and FAANG stocks, with rising Treasury yields and trade-related worries sapping risk appetite.

The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell about 1.5 percent and, at the day’s low, had retreated 3.8 percent and 3.6 percent, respectively, from all-time highs. The Nasdaq’s near 2-percent drop pulled it 7.1 percent away from its high.

All three indexes hit records between Aug. 30 and Oct. 3, despite the escalating Sino-U.S. trade dispute gnawing at confidence on corporate profit growth through most of the year.

But a recent IMF warning on global growth taking a hit from rising tariffs has hit confidence in the stock market, as has U.S. Treasury yields at more than 7-year highs, signaling a tightening of capital globally.

“It’s a risk-off environment as investors are focusing on spiking yields and taking profits off the table as they are concerned about whether the bull market is actually coming to an end,” said Ryan Nauman, market strategist at Informa Financial Intelligence in Zephyr Cove, Nevada.

The retreat on Wall Street was led by technology stocks .SPLRCT, which dropped 2.55 percent, and the trade-sensitive industrial stocks .SPLRCI that fell 2.0 percent.

Along with tech stocks, the FAANGs – Facebook (FB.O), Amazon (AMZN.O), Apple (AAPL.O), Netflix (NFLX.O) and Alphabet (GOOGL.O) – have led the market rally. The FAANGs, spread over three sectors, were down between 1.4 percent and 4.5 percent.

The tech sector has slid 5.5 percent so far this month, already its worst since August 2015, and at current levels has lost out to healthcare .SPXHC as the best-performing S&P sector in 2018.

“If investors are going to take profits then it will be from some of the bigger, high-growth names,” Nauman said.

At 13:50 a.m. ET the Dow .DJI was down 382.06 points, or 1.45 percent, at 26,048.51, the S&P 500 .SPX was down 42.64 points, or 1.48 percent, at 2,837.70 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was down 150.55 points, or 1.95 percent, at 7,587.47.

The small-cap Russell 2000 index , less sensitive than its larger peers to global worries such as trade and yields, was down 1 percent at 1,605.60 points, below its 200-day moving average.

The CBOE Volatility Index .VIX, Wall Street’s “fear gauge,” rose 2.5 points, gaining for the fifth straight session to hit its highest since June 25.

The gainers in the sea of red were defensive sectors - utilities .SPLRCU and consumer staples .SPLRCS.

The weakness in tech was led by semiconductor names after Swiss vacuum valve maker VAT Group (VACN.S) said demand from chip equipment makers was softening.

The Philadelphia Semiconductor index .SOX sank 2.19 percent, with Intel (INTC.O) down 1.7 percent. Nvidia (NVDA.O), down 4.2 percent, and AMD (AMD.O), down 5.7 percent, were also hit by Huawei’s [HWT.UL] plan to make chips for servers.

“It is a perfect storm for technology right now with the tariff war with China and weaker demand for chips,” Nauman said.

Luxury stocks were another casualty of worries of slowing China demand, sparked by LVMH’s (LVMH.PA) results. Jeweler Tiffany (TIF.N), handbag makers Michael Kors (KORS.N) and Tapestry (TPR.N) tumbled between 5.8 percent and 8 percent.

Sears Holdings (SHLD.O) plunged 30.3 percent. The debt-laden retailer is preparing to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as early as Friday, sources told Reuters.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 3.18-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 2.32-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 12 new 52-week highs and 40 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded nine new highs and 182 new lows.

Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva

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