Wall Street on Friday closed out a volatile week with losses as investors worried that upcoming trade talks aimed at resolving a costly trade war between Washington and Beijing could be in trouble.
The selling, which erased modest early gains for the market, snapped a three-week win streak for the S&P 500. The benchmark index is still up 2.2 percent this month.
The afternoon market slide came as investors reacted to published reports indicating that Chinese officials canceled a planned trip to farms in Montana and Nebraska and would be returning to China.
Representatives from the US and China were engaging in preliminary discussions over the next two weeks to lay the groundwork for more formal negotiations next month.
The reports about the Chinese delegation came after US President Donald Trump told reporters during a midday news conference that he wants a complete deal with China and would not accept one that only addresses some of the differences between the two nations.
Trump also said that he does not feel that he needs to secure an agreement before next year’s presidential election.
“This is why China has been reluctant to continue to negotiate with the Trump administration, because as soon as it looks like we’re moving toward some sort of constructive talks, there is a change in direction and it seems like a lot of head fakes,” EventShares chief investment officer Ben Phillips said.
Markets rallied this month after the US and China took steps to ease tensions in advance of their next round of talks. That had fueled speculation among investors that the two countries might at least reach an interim deal on trade.
The S&P 500 on Friday fell 14.72 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,992.07, dropping 0.5 percent from a close of 3,007.39 on Sept. 13.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average on Friday dropped 159.72 points, or 0.6 percent, to 26,935.07, a plunge of 1 percent from 27,219.52 a week earlier. The index had been up about 100 points then swung as low as 168 points.
The NASDAQ on Friday lost 65.20 points, or 0.8 percent, to 8,117.67, weighed down by declining technology sector stocks. That was a decline of 0.7 percent from a close of 8,176.71 on Sept. 13.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks on Friday slid 1.71 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,559.76, plummeting 1.2 percent from 1,578.14 a week earlier.
Even with Friday’s selling, the S&P 500 remained relatively close to its all-time high.
The benchmark index held steady this week, despite volatility caused by a swing in oil prices and the US Federal Reserve’s latest interest rate cut.
On Monday, oil prices spiked more than 14 percent after a key Saudi Arabian oil processing facility was attacked.
Oil prices retreated after the Saudi Arabian government said that production could be restored by the end of the month, although they were still up nearly 6 percent for the week.
The Fed cut interest rates for the second time this year as it tries to shore up economic growth amid the lingering trade war between the US and China and weak economic growth overseas.
The central bank left open the possibility of additional rate cuts if the US economy weakens.
The US and China have slapped import taxes on hundreds of billions of US dollars of each other’s products in a tariff war that has weighed on global trade and economic growth and created uncertainty for businesses deciding where to situate factories, find suppliers and sell their products.
The two countries appeared to be nearing a deal in early May, but talks stalled after the US accused China of reneging on earlier commitments.
“The market is at a pretty fragile point right now,” Phillips said. “It’s at all-time highs and there are risks, it seems like, building everywhere globally, with trade being the biggest one.”
Technology stocks accounted for the biggest share of the market’s losses. The sector is particularly sensitive to swings in the trade conflict because many companies manufacture products in China.
Apple Inc slid 1.5 percent and Microsoft Corp dropped 1.2 percent.
Retailers and other companies that benefit from consumer spending also declined broadly.
Amazon.com Inc fell 1.5 percent and Starbucks Corp dropped 1.6 percent.
Financial stocks veered lower as bond yields declined.
The yield on the 10-year US Treasury bond fell from 1.77 percent late on Thursday to 1.72 percent.
Bond yields, which can affect interest rates on mortgages and other consumer loans, slid steadily all week.
Bank of America Corp and American Express Co each fell 0.8 percent.
Netflix Inc led communications services companies lower, sliding 5.5 percent.
In an interview with Variety published on Friday, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings acknowledged that the company faces tough competition from Walt Disney Co, Apple and other companies rolling out streaming services in November.
Netflix shares are down nearly 26 percent this quarter.
Shares in healthcare companies and utilities stocks rose.
Johnson & Johnson added 1.2 percent and Exelon Corp gained 1.4 percent.
Semiconductor maker Xilinx Inc tumbled 6.8 percent as its chief financial officer, Lorenzo Flores, is leaving the company for Toshiba Memory Holdings Corp, where he is to be vice chairman.
Flores is to stay at Xilinx through its second-quarter financial report.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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