Trade War Concerns May Further Weigh on Wall Street


By Investors Hub

The major U.S. index futures are pointing to a sharply lower opening on Friday, with stocks likely to extend the sell-off seen over the past few sessions.

The downward momentum on Wall Street comes as traders express concerns about the impact President Donald Trump?s plans to impose new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports will have on global trade.

Trump shrugged off the concerns in a post on Twitter early Friday morning, calling trade wars ?good? and ?easy to win?

?When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win,? Trump said.

He added, ?Example, when we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don?t trade anymore-we win big. It?s easy!?

Following Trump?s announcement, several industry groups warned that the tariffs would lead to increased costs and hamper their ability to create jobs.

Stocks moved considerably lower during trading on Thursday, extending the sharp pullback seen over the two previous sessions. The major averages showed a lack of direction early in the day session but slid firmly into negative territory as the day progressed.

While the major averages climbed off their lows of the session, they still posted steep losses on the day. The Dow plummeted 420.22 points or 1.7 percent to 24,608.98, the Nasdaq tumbled 92.45 points or 1.3 percent to 7,180.56 and the S&P 500 slumped 36.16 points or 1.3 percent to 2,677.67.

The continued weakness on Wall Street came amid concerns about a potential trade war after President Donald Trump announced the U.S. will impose new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

Trump told metals industry executives at a White House meeting that he would sign an order formally imposing the new sanctions next week.

“Sometime next week we’ll be signing it in,” Trump said. “And you’re going to have protection for the first time in a long time.”

Trump indicated that he plans to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports.

The tariffs are likely to benefit U.S. steel and aluminum producers, although some officials have warned of retaliation by the European Union and China.

Earlier in the day, traders kept a close eye on Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s second day of testimony on Capitol Hill.

Powell testified before the Senate Banking Committee after his remarks before the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday sparked fears the Fed may raise interest rates more than previously estimated.

The Fed chief added to uncertainty about the outlook for interest rates after telling the Senate committee there has not yet been strong evidence of a decisive increase in wages.

“We see wages by a couple of measures trending up a little bit, but most of them continuing to grow at two and a half percent,” Powell said.

“Nothing is suggesting to me that wage inflation is at a point of accelerating,” he added. “I would expect that some continued strengthening in the labor market can take place without causing inflation.”

On the U.S. economic front, the Labor Department released a report showing first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell to a nearly fifty-year low.

The report said initial jobless claims fell to 210,000 in the week ended February 24th, a decrease of 10,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 220,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to inch up to 226,000.

With the unexpected decrease, initial jobless claims fell to their lowest level since hitting 202,000 in December of 1969.

A separate report from the Commerce Department showed personal income increased by slightly more than expected in the month of January, while personal spending rose in line with estimates.

The Commerce Department said personal income climbed by 0.4 percent in January, matching the increase seen in December. Economists had expected income to rise by 0.3 percent.

Additionally, the report said personal spending edged up by 0.2 percent in January after climbing by an upwardly revised 0.4 percent in December.

Personal spending had been expected to rise by 0.2 percent compared to the 0.3 percent increase originally reported for the previous month.

The Institute for Supply Management also released a report showing an unexpected acceleration in the pace of growth in the manufacturing sector in the month of February.

The ISM said its purchasing managers index climbed to 60.8 in February from 59.1 in January, with a reading above 50 indicating growth in the manufacturing sector. Economists had expected the index to edge down to 58.7.

With the unexpected increase, the purchasing managers index reached its highest level since hitting 61.4 in May of 2004.

Most of the major sectors moved to the downside on the day, although particular weakness was visible among semiconductor stocks.

Reflecting the weakness in the semiconductor, the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index tumbled by 1.6 percent. The index continued to give back ground after reaching a record intraday high on Tuesday.

Healthcare stocks also moved significantly lower, dragging the Dow Jones U.S. Health Care Index down by 1.5 percent.

Biotechnology, financial, and chemical stocks also saw notable weakness, while some strength was visible among natural gas, steel and gold stocks.

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