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Wall Street Drops 2 Percent As Trade Worries Flare

Kitco News

Lewis Krauskopf

(Reuters) - Wall Street’s main indexes fell more than 2 percent on Friday, led lower by technology and healthcare shares, as investors digested renewed U.S.-China trade tensions and a turbulent week of trading neared an end.

Concerns over U.S.-China trade relations were fanned by White House trade adviser Peter Navarro’s comments that U.S. officials would raise tariff rates if the two countries could not come to an agreement during a 90-day negotiating period.

Following a weekend truce between Washington and Beijing in talks in Argentina, stocks have been volatile all week as investors parse news for signs of whether a trade-tension cloud over the stock market would dissipate.

The S&P 500 has pulled back more than 4 percent this week, giving up most gains from a week ago, when the benchmark index notched its biggest weekly percentage gain in seven years. Along with trade, Wall Street has been focused on bond yields and the direction of interest rate policy from the Federal Reserve.

“You have a situation where the market is looking for a bailout, whether it be from the Fed or from trade concerns, when what we actually need to see is some capitulation,” said Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at Baird in Milwaukee. “Bottoms are made on fear, and capitulation is evidence of fear.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 530.51 points, or 2.13 percent, to 24,417.16, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 56.59 points, or 2.10 percent, to 2,639.36 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 185.77 points, or 2.58 percent, to 7,002.49.

Technology shares tumbled, with the S&P 500 tech sector down 3.1 percent. Healthcare shares .SPXHC, the biggest gainer among major S&P sectors this year, dropped 2.5 percent.

The S&P 500’s 50-day moving average fell below its 200-day moving average, a phenomenon known as a “death cross” and one that some market watchers see as a bearish near-term signal if it holds through the close.

Markets largely shrugged off government data that showed U.S. job growth slowed in November and wages increased less than forecast, suggesting some moderation in economic activity that could support expectations of fewer interest rate increases from the Fed in 2019.

Energy shares .SPNY showed only modest losses, supported by rising oil prices as Saudi Arabia and other producers in OPEC, as well as allies like Russia, agreed to reduce output to drain global fuel inventories and support the market.

In a closely watched initial public offering, shares of biotech company Moderna Inc MRNA.O fell 9.3 percent in their debut.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.88-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.35-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 12 new 52-week highs and 31 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 12 new highs and 168 new lows.

On Thursday, 1,322 stocks made new 52-week lows on the Nasdaq and NYSE on Thursday, the most since January 2016.

Additional reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Nick Zieminski

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