Stocks drop again as US and China trade dispute escalates

Stocks are skidding after the U.S. and China each proposed tariffs on goods exported by the other, a move that increased investors’ worries about a trade dispute that could slow down global commerce. The market has recovered some of its losses after a sharp drop at the start of trading, but industrial and large technology companies are still falling.

The Chinese government announced plans to impose tariffs of 25 percent on a list of more than 100 U.S. goods worth $50 billion, including soybeans, the largest U.S. export to China, and aircraft. The duties are in retaliation for U.S. plans to raise duties on a similar amount of Chinese goods.

The tariffs could drive up costs for companies that make airplanes and machinery. Automakers are targets as well. Beijing’s list reflects its sensitivity to American complaints that it pressures foreign companies to hand over technology.

The S&P 500 index fell 13 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,601 as of 11:15 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 184 points, or 0.7 percent, to 23,849. The Nasdaq composite declined 30 points, or 0.4 percent, to 6,910. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks was down 2 at 1,510.

The tariffs do not take effect immediately. The Chinese Commerce Ministry said the effective date depends on whether the U.S. actually moves to raise its duties. The Trump administration on Tuesday released a list of 1,300 imported Chinese products, including industrial robots and telecoms gear, subject to potential tariffs to protest Beijing’s alleged theft of U.S. technology. China’s envoy to the WTO said Beijing would challenge the U.S. moves.

Industrial companies were rocked. Aerospace company Boeing shed $11.99, or 3.6 percent, to $318.83. Farm equipment maker Deere lost $6.84, or 4.5 percent, to $146.20 and construction equipment maker Caterpillar fell $3.66, or 2.5 percent, to $141.40. Large technology companies also struggled. They led the market higher throughout 2017 and 2018 but have fallen out of favor during the recent turmoil. Facebook slid $4.75, or 3 percent, to $151.36 and Microsoft sank 98 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $88.73. Online retailer Amazon gave up $26.17, or 1.8 percent, to $1,365.88.

The Dow fell as much as 501 points early on, but the losses eased a bit as some winners emerged. Investors bought consumer products companies and other stocks that pay large dividends. Hormel Foods jumped $1.56, or 4.6 percent, to $35.78 and Kellogg gained $1.32, or 2.1 percent, to $64.69. Homebuilders rose a following strong quarterly report from Lennar, which gained $3.88, or 6.8 percent, to $60.97. D.R. Horton added 9cents, or 2.2 percent, to $43.83.

European stocks also fell sharply. Germany’s DAX fell 0.6 percent while the FTSE 100 in Britain slipped 0.4 percent.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slumped 2.2 percent with the decline accelerating in the final minutes of trading after Beijing announced specifics of its tariff hikes. Most other Asian indexes had closed before China announced its response to the U.S. tariff plans.

The biggest worry for investors is that an escalating trade war will derail a global economy that has gotten to a point where it’s largely growing in unison. The U.S. economy has been humming along with a strong job market, while Brazil just last year emerged from its punishing recession and growth in the euro area has reached its highest level in a decade. The global economy is expected to grow 3.9 percent this year, which would be its strongest showing in seven years, according to the International Monetary Fund.

But economists say a trade war would drag down growth for the U.S. and other countries in a number of ways. Barriers to trade would obviously hurt U.S. exporters. But they could also hurt U.S. companies or individuals that don’t do any exporting, if they have to pay higher costs for imported products. If the higher costs causes inflation to accelerate, central banks could be forced to raise interest rates more quickly, which would put another drag on economic growth.

Oil prices also turned lower as investors contemplated the possibility that slower economic growth will mean less demand for fuel. U.S. crude fell 92 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $62.59 a barrel in New York while Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 91 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $67.21 a barrel in London.

The market has alternated between big losses and sharp recoveries as investors worry about the trade tensions, as well as controversies surrounding technology companies like Facebook. The S&P 500 has fallen more than 4 percent since March 1, the day President Donald Trump said he intended to place tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

Bond prices were little changed. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note held steady at 2.77 percent. The price of gold jumped 0.6 percent, to $1,345.40 an ounce.

The dollar slipped to 106.30 yen from 106.61 yen. The euro rose to $1.2300 from $1.2267.

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AP Business Writers Stan Choe contributed from New York and Kelvin Chan contributed from Hong Kong.

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AP Markets Writer Marley Jay can be reached at http://twitter.com/MarleyJayAP . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/marley%20jay

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