Ahead of Black Friday, market sees red

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 600 points on Nov. 20 as tech companies and retailers face losses and an oil surplus pushed barrel prices lower. The global economy shows signs of weakening, with the US, China, and Europe facing potential slowdowns. 

Mary Altaffer/AP
A flag flies outside the New York Stock Exchange in New York City on Nov. 20. Stocks are plunging as retailers and technology companies face losses due to higher expenses and policy changes.

Stocks are skidding Tuesday as weak results from retailers and mounting losses for big technology companies push the market back into the red for the year.

Energy companies are slumping because of a 7 percent plunge in the price of oil. Crude is on track for its biggest loss in three years. Industrial companies are also dropping as the downward momentum in stocks carries into a second day.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average has lost 3.7 percent in the last two days, and the S&P 500 is off 3.4 percent. The Nasdaq, heavily populated with technology stocks, is off close to 5 percent. As of 3 p.m., the S&P is down nearly 10 percent from the peak it reached in September.

Investors are measuring a number of headwinds and increasingly playing it safe. The global economy is showing signs of weakening, with the United States, China, and Europe all facing the rising threat of a slowdown, which can hurt demand for commodities such as oil and pose a threat to company profits. Trade tensions between the US and China appear to be getting worse instead of improving, contributing to the sell-off in tech stocks and multinational industrial companies.

Faced with these challenges, investors have lately turned to safer bets such as utilities, real estate companies, and makers of household goods. They've also sought the safety of US Treasuries.

The S&P 500 index lost 56 points, or 2.1 percent, to 2,634 as of 3:05 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average sank 616 points, or 2.5 percent, to 24,400.

Earnings from retailers didn't help investors' mood. Target shares plunged 10.2 percent to $69.27 after it reported earnings that missed Wall Street's estimates due to higher expenses. Ross Stores, TJX, and Kohl's also fell on disappointing forecasts.

Technology companies slid after the Trump administration proposed new national security regulations that could limit exports of high-tech products in fields such as quantum computing, machine learning, object recognition, and artificial intelligence. The move further dims hopes that US President Trump and China's President Xi Jinping could strike a deal to break the countries' impasse on trade when they meet this month at a gathering of the Group of 20 major economies.

"A resolution doesn't seem to be coming in the short term," said Katie Nixon, the chief investment officer for Northern Trust Wealth Management. "A lot of the companies that are front and center [like Google's parent company] Alphabet, Apple, IBM ... could be significantly limited in the way they export their technology."

Apple fell 4.7 percent to $177.10 and is down 24.2 percent from the peak it reached October 3, though it's still up for the year. Microsoft lost 3.1 percent to $101.33 and IBM fell 2.6 percent to $117.20

Tech stocks were among the biggest losers in Europe, too. Nokia and Ericsson, two top suppliers of telecom networks, each fell about 3 percent.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite lost 147 points, or 2.1 percent, to 6,881. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks shed 26 points, or 1.8 percent, to 1,469.

Benchmark US crude lost 6.6 percent to $53.43 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, fell 6.4 percent to $62.53 per barrel in London. Oil prices have nosedived since early October.

Saudi Arabia and other countries started producing more oil after the Trump administration announced renewed sanctions on Iran, Ms. Nixon noted. The administration granted waivers to several countries allowing them to continue importing oil from Iran, creating a supply glut that pushed prices dramatically lower.

Nixon said OPEC countries will probably cut back on oil production, but some investors are worried that the buildup in crude stockpiles is a sign the global economy isn't doing as well as expected.

Bond prices were steady. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note remained at 3.06 percent.

European indexes fell, with Germany's DAX index dropping 1.6 percent. Stocks also declined in Asia as the Nikkei 225 lost 1.1 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 2 percent.

The dollar rose to 112.80 yen from 112.54 yen. The euro fell to $1.1370 from $1.1453.

This story was reported by The Associated Press

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