Stocks fell on Friday, extending this week’s sell-off, after President Donald Trump said there’s “absolutely no need to rush” on a trade agreement with China and tariffs will make the United States “much stronger.”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell about 300 points Friday morning, while the S&P 500 fell 1.4% and Nasdaq was 1.7% lower. The decline followed a deep sell-off this week that saw the Dow falling more than 700 points and the S&P down more than 3%.
Trump signaled in a Twitter post Friday morning he could stick with China tariffs for a long period of time. The comments came after he slapped higher tariffs — from 10% to 25% — on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods.
Trump also cheered the consumer prices data Friday, which showed weaker-than-expected inflation.
“Really good, very low inflation,” said a tweet from the president, who has argued the Federal Reserve should cut rates to goose the economy because of tame inflation.
“[Trump’s] bark is worse than his bite a lot of the times,” said Arian Vojdani, investment strategist at MV Financial. “We might see him try to come down a little hard, but ultimately people really don’t think we are going to see that drastic trade war play out … The administration is very keen on markets and they don’t want to see pain.”
Trump followed through with his threat as tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods were raised to 25% from 10% at midnight. Some market participants are holding onto the hope that the new tariffs are not applied to Chinese exports that are already in transit before the deadline, which provides some additional time for the two sides to reach an agreement.
“A ‘grace period’ was included on these tariff increases, so that goods currently in transit to the U.S. from China aren’t subject to the new 25% tariffs, just the old 10% tariff,” Tom Essaye, founder of Sevens Report, said in a note on Friday.
“That grace period was not included in previous rounds of tariffs and is likely an olive branch of sorts to the Chinese side. Given shipping times, goods sent from China today will take two weeks or so to reach the U.S., so if a trade deal is stuck in that time frame, the pain of the 25% tariffs will never be felt,” he added.
Trade negotiations resumed in Washington at 9:30 a.m. ET on Friday. Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is meeting with Trump’s trade team without the title “special envoy” for President Xi Jinping, a role he has held in previous talks, suggesting he may have diminished authority to make concessions that could be key to striking a deal. Trump said Thursday tariffs are an “excellent” alternative to a trade deal with China.
Companies that are hinging on a trade resolution are under pressure. Apple fell 2.4% while Boeing and Caterpillar lost 1.2% and 2% respectively. Chipmakers took a big hit on fears of an escalated trade war as the VanEck Vectors Semiconductor ETF is now on pace for its worst week of the year and longest losing streak since October 2018.
Yet some believe the trade battle is poised to drag on longer.
“We continue to expect the two sides to reach a trade deal eventually, but this is unlikely to happen in the short term as the war is not painful enough for either side,” Zhiwei Zhang, Deutsche Bank’s chief Asia economist said in a note on Friday. “China is not likely to give in quickly. The damage to China’s economic growth is around -0.2% on an annualized basis, which is manageable.”
The Cboe Volatility Index, a measure of the 30-day implied volatility of the S&P 500 that’s commonly known as Wall Street’s “fear gauge,” hit its highest level since Jan. 4 on Thursday.
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