Market Update: Stocks Slide as U.S.-China Trade War Risks Reemerge

U.S. stocks declined Friday, with the Dow briefly falling more than 200 points after the Trump administration moved ahead with planned duties on Chinese goods, reigniting fears of a global trade war.

Stock-Rally Falters

Risks of an all-out trade war dragged equity prices lower, with all of Wall Street’s major indexes posting declines. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 84.83 points, or 0.3%, to 25,090.48 with the likes of Caterpillar Inc. (CAT), and Chevron Corp (CVX) leading the declines.

The broader S&P 500 Index fell 0.1% to 2,779.42, with the majority of its primary sectors booking losses. Industries tied to primary goods were among the biggest decliners.

The Nasdaq Composite Index fell from record levels, declining 0.2% to 7,746.38.

Implied volatility, as measured by the CBOE VIX, rose briefly on Friday before reversing gaind later in the session. The VIX fear index settled below 12 on a scale of 1-100 where 20 represents the historic average.

Trump Announces Tariffs

The Trump administration is moving forward with a plan to tax up to $50 billion in Chinese goods, sending a strong signal to Beijing that it will no longer tolerate theft of intellectual property.

A charge of 25% will be applied to Chinese goods that “contain industrially significant technologies,” President Trump announced Friday. The measures come “in light of China’s theft of intellectual property and its other unfair trade practices.”

Beijing responded swiftly by announcing it will implement import duties on the same scale as Washington. Neither country commented on the products that will be impacted.

China’s response was expected by President Trump, who said he would impose more tariffs if Beijing retaliates. Currently, the U.S. purchases far more from China than the other way around, which gives Washington some leeway in its tariff policy.

Investors are generally averse to any sign of protectionism in global markets, but this hasn’t stopped the Trump administration from recalling several of its current trade regimes in an effort to trim Washington’s deficit. Last  month, President Trump confirmed that Canada, Mexico and the European Union would be subject to import duties on steel and aluminum products.

Cryptocurrencies Stabilize After Tumultuous Week

The global cryptocurrency market stabilized Friday, as bitcoin rebounded from oversold levels and altcoins led by EOS reported gains.

All cryptocurrencies in circulation are collectively valued at $282.5 billion, according to CoinMarketCap. The market bottomed near $264 billion on Wednesday.

A top U.S. regulator delivered good news for cryptocurrency traders when he declared Ethereum not to be a security. Speaking at the Yahoo All Markets Summit event in San Francisco Thursday, SEC director William Hinman said Ethereum is too decentralized to be a security, which means it is in the same category as bitcoin.

The SEC has yet to issue a formal decree on Ethereum and it is not entirely clear whether a federal judge will agree with Hinman’s assertion. Advocates for Ethereum have rejoiced nevertheless given the ongoing debate over ether’s possible security status.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Chief Editor to and Contributor to, Sam Bourgi has spent the past nine years focused on economics, markets and cryptocurrencies. His work has been featured in and cited by some of the world's leading newscasts, including Barron's, CBOE and Forbes. Avid crypto watchers and those with a libertarian persuasion can follow him on twitter at @hsbourgi