NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street is struggling again on Friday as big technology stocks continue to fall back to earth and as tensions ramp higher between the world’s two largest economies.
The S&P 500 was 0.5% lower after the first hour of trading, wiping out the last of its gains for the week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 74 points, or 0.3%, at 26,578, as of 10:30 a.m. Eastern time, and the newfound struggles for tech helped drag the Nasdaq composite down a steeper 1.1%. Each of the indexes roughly halved their sharper losses from earlier in the morning.
Stocks also sank across Asian and European markets, and all the uncertainty helped gold top $1,900 per ounce, close to its record high. Treasury yields were holding relatively steady, but they remain close to their lowest levels since April.
The coronavirus pandemic remains the most dominant force in markets, with its potential to destroy lives and economies. But other risks are also bubbling up, headlined by Friday’s worsening relations between the United States and China.
Investors are also concerned about a recent uptick in layoffs as spiking coronavirus counts across the Sun Belt lead more businesses to shut down. Extra benefits for those out-of-work Americans from the federal government are set to expire soon, and worries are rising about whether Congress will be able to reach a deal to offer more aid for the economy. Nearly half of Americans whose families experienced a layoff during the pandemic believe those jobs are lost forever, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Despite all those challenges, the S&P 500 remains only about 5% below its record set in February, after roaring back from an earlier, nearly 34% plummet. This week’s stall for the S&P 500 follows three straight weekly gains driven by hopes that the economy was regaining its footing.
On Friday, the focus was on the closure of the U.S. consulate by China’s Foreign Ministry in the western city of Chengdu. It echoes a similar move earlier this week by the United States to close the Chinese consulate in Houston.
Such moves have investors on edge because of how viciously markets swung in prior years when President Donald Trump was pressing his trade war with China, before they agreed to a temporary truce early this year.
“Alongside the eviction of the Houston Chinese Consulate, the risk of the U.S.-China conflict escalating into a ‘Cold War’ is worrying,” said Hayaki Narita of Mizuho Bank.
A speech Thursday by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying that “securing our freedom from the Chinese Communist Party is the mission of our time” adds to the rhetoric certain to incense Beijing, making it still more difficult for either side to back down, he said.
Technology stocks have also been in the spotlight, after a sharp slide for them on Thursday helped drag the S&P 500 to its worst loss in nearly four weeks.
Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and other giants have cruised through much of the pandemic on expectations that they can keep growing despite all the challenges for the economy. But critics say enthusiasm for them was overdone, with prices too high even after accounting for the huge profits that they can produce
Intel sank 16.2% after it delayed the release of its new 7 nanometer chip, and it was the biggest weight on the market Friday morning.
Apple fell 2.1%, Microsoft lost 1%, and tech stocks as a group accounted for nearly two thirds of the S&P 500’s loss.
Other high-flying tech-oriented giants also regressed. Amazon slipped 0.8%, Facebook lost 1.5% and the Class A shares of Google’s parent company fell 1.6%.
Earlier in the day, stocks in Shanghai sank 3.9%, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 2.2%. Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.7%.
In Europe, France’s CAC 40 fell 1.4%, and Germany’s DAX lost 1.7%. The FTSE 100 in London dropped 1.1%.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury held steady at 0.58%. It tends to move with investors’ expectations for the economy and inflation.
Gold rose 0.5% to $1,900.20 per ounce, crossing above that threshold for the first time in nearly nine years. Benchmark U.S. crude added 1 cent to $41.08 per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, was flat at $43.31 per barrel.
AP Business Writer Elaine Kurtenbach contributed.