Tech rout sinks stocks

President's criticism of Amazon and retaliatory tariffs from China rattle markets

Apr 2, 2018 @ 3:16 pm

By Bloomberg News

The deepening rout in once high-flying technology shares sent U.S. stocks tumbling to start the second quarter, as renewed presidential criticism of Amazon.com and retaliatory tariffs from China rattled markets. Treasuries and gold rose on safe-haven demand.

The S&P 500 Index headed for its lowest close in five months after sliding through its average price for the past 200 days, a level of support that had held in three prior bouts of selling. The index is now down more than 10% from its January record. The Cboe Volatility Index jumped to 25.

As of 2:59 p.m. New York time, the S&P 500 Index was down 2.8%.

The Nasdaq 100 Index was down 3.2% as investors continued to offload some of the bull market's biggest gainers. Amazon, up 50% in the past year, sank after President Donald J. Trump renewed his attack on the online retailer. Netflix slid as much as 6%, while chipmakers in the S&P 500 plunged more than 5% thanks to Intel's worst day in two years.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was off more than 600 points, after having been down more than 750 points earlier. The MSCI Emerging Market Index was up 0.2%.

Bonds erased declines and gold spiked higher as the equity selling picked up steam.

"This is definitely a flight-to-safety type of market," said Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer at Oakbrook Investments. "You're seeing people coming out of the stocks that had been performing well. There'd been various stories that momentum was extended in the marketplace, and I would say today's activity supports that trying to unwind a bit."

Trump and renewed trade concerns roiled U.S. financial markets to start the second quarter after the worst three months for global stocks in more than two years.

The risk-off tone comes just two weeks before earnings season starts, with investors still anticipating a strong showing even as signs have emerged that the synchronized global growth story is faltering just as the Federal Reserve steps up its tightening.

"The US markets will likely serve as a focal point as investors stateside and elsewhere consider what tact the administration will take toward trade in the weeks ahead and what effects it could have on the US economy and the economies of its trading partners," John Stoltzfus, the chief investment strategist of Oppenheimer & Co., wrote in a note to clients Monday.

"The U.S. economy is showing a lot of symptoms of being late-cycle," said Marc Chandler, global head of currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. "I'm looking for a downturn in maybe late next year or early 2020, with the fiscal stimulus they're getting from the White House giving us a little bit of late-cycle expansion, but nothing that changes the game plan."

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