Stocks closed broadly lower on Wall Street Wednesday as investors turned anxious about the possibility that the U.S. and China may not reach a trade deal before next year.
Technology stocks took the heaviest losses. Communication services and industrial stocks also were big losers. Banks fell as bond yields declined. Energy stocks notched the biggest gains as crude oil prices rebounded.
A published report suggested a “phase one” trade pact may not be completed this year as negotiators continue to wrestle over differences. Beijing is pressing Washington to agree to broader tariff rollbacks on Chinese goods.
Investors have been hoping the world’s two biggest economies can make a deal before new and more damaging tariffs take effect Dec. 15 on about $160 billion in Chinese imports. Those duties would cover smartphones, laptops and other consumer goods.
“If a deal is not going to get done before the end of the year, then all of a sudden this uncertainty comes back in around what’s going to happen around December 15,” said Scott Ladner, chief investment officer at Horizon Investments. “Are the tariffs back on the table again? The market has certainly come to expect that those are not going to happen.”
The selling nudged the major U.S. stock indexes off their recent all-time highs.
The S&P 500 index dropped 11.72 points, or 0.4%, to 3,108.46. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 112.93 points, or 0.4%, to 27,821.09. The index was briefly down 258 points.
The Nasdaq slid 43.93, or 0.5%, to 8,526.73. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks gave up 6.68 points, or 0.4%, to 1,591.61.
Major stock indexes in Europe also closed lower.
Growing optimism among investors that the U.S. and China were making progress toward a limited trade deal helped pave the way for gains in the market in recent weeks, including a string of all-time highs for the major stock indexes.
That optimism dimmed Wednesday as investors weighed the implications of more tariffs kicking in next month.