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Stocks tumble again in biggest weekly decline since 2016

March 23, 2018

U.S. stocks tumbled again Friday, sending the Standard & Poor's 500 Index to its biggest weekly loss in more than two years, on concern that a trade war and higher borrowing rates could throttle global growth. Oil surged on speculation sanctions on Iran will be re-imposed.

The Dow Jones industrial average slumped 1.8 percent, to 23.532.30, to the lowest finish since November, led by losses Friday in companies as diverse as 3M Co. to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. The S&P 500 dropped 2.1 percent, to 2,588.24, its lowest closing mark since the volatility-fueled meltdown in early February. Gold rallied and Treasury yields declined as investors sought safe havens.

Global markets were caught in a risk-off mode after China announced retaliation against President Donald Trump’s proposed tariffs announced Thursday. China’s ambassador to the U.S. wouldn’t rule out the possibility of the Asian nation scaling back purchases of Treasuries in response to the tariffs.

It’s been a miserable week for higher-risk markets globally, as a trade war edged closer, the tech sector was roiled by Facebook Inc.’s privacy scandal and data showed European growth sputtering. The tech heavy Nasdaq 100 dropped 7.3 percent this week, the most since 2015.

Traders had already been bracing for the possibility of slowing expansion as the Federal Reserve reiterated its commitment to further interest-rate increases after Wednesday’s hike.

“There is a tug of war between Fed tightening, fiscal stimulus, strong earning but slowing sales and now tariffs and potential trade wars,” said Jason Browne, chief investment strategist at FundX Investment Group.

Adding to the image of the ascendance of the “America first” faction, Trump replaced White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster with John Bolton, a controversial foreign-affairs specialist whom the U.S. Senate declined to confirm as President George W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations.

On the week, the S&P 500 tumbled 5.9 percent, the Dow dropped 5.7 percent and the Nasdaq slumped 6.5 percent.

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