Persisting trade worries send Wall Street lower

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The benchmark S&P 500 index fell for a third straight day on Friday as skepticism over the United States and China reaching a trade deal before a looming deadline added to concerns over slowing global growth.

A screen displays a chart tracking the Dow Jones Industrial Average during the trading day on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., February 8, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

President Donald Trump on Thursday fanned worries when he said he did not plan to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping before the March 1 deadline set for reaching an agreement.

However, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will travel to Beijing for principal-level meetings on Feb. 14-15, a statement from the White House said.

As the session wore on, Wall Street’s major indexes regained lost ground, with the Nasdaq little changed. Even so, the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average remained firmly in negative territory as investors took profits from recently high-flying stocks.

Shares of S&P 500 energy companies, one of the top-performing sectors so far this year, were down 1.2 percent. Financial shares, also strong performers of late, were the biggest drag among the S&P 500’s major sectors, dropping 0.8 percent as U.S. 10-year Treasury yields fell.

“Right now, the focus really is on China,” said Mark Otto, global markets commentator for GTS in New York. “The market doesn’t like uncertainty, and it seems to be in abundance at this particular time. So the market’s tone has gone from cautiously optimistic to speculative.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 151.29 points, or 0.6 percent, to 25,018.24, the S&P 500 lost 6.2 points, or 0.23 percent, to 2,699.85 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 2.66 points, or 0.04 percent, to 7,285.70.

Global growth fears resurfaced on Thursday after the European Union cut its economic growth forecast and the Bank of England warned that Britain faced its weakest economic growth in a decade.

The U.S. corporate earnings outlook has also taken a negative turn. Analysts now expect current-quarter profit to dip 0.1 percent from the year before, not grow the 5.3 percent estimated at the start of the year.

Still, the S&P 500 has risen more than 14 percent from 20-month lows in December, spurred by a dovish Federal Reserve and largely positive fourth-quarter earnings.

Of the S&P 500 companies that have reported quarterly results, 71.5 percent have beaten profit estimates, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Shares of Coty Inc surged 30.9 percent – the most on the S&P 500 – after the cosmetics maker reported better-than-expected quarterly results.

Mattel Inc shares gained 21.6 percent after the toymaker posted a surprise quarterly profit as it benefited from a makeover of its iconic Barbie doll.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.41-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.10-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 had 17 new 52-week highs and two new lows; the Nasdaq Composite had 30 new highs and 31 new lows.

Reporting by April Joyner; Additional reporting by Medha Singh and Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Steve Orlofsky

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