FILE - In this Sept. 18, 2019, file photo trader James Denaro works at the New York Stock Exchange. The U.S. stock market opens at 9:30 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, Sept. 24. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Stocks lower on economic data, Trump developments

September 24, 2019 - 2:42 pm

Stocks turned volatile on Wall Street in afternoon trading Tuesday as investors watched developments surrounding a potential impeachment probe of President Donald Trump and weighed economic data showing a drop in consumer confidence.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average swung from a gain of 110 points to a loss of around 230 points following the consumer confidence data and a speech by Trump before the United Nations dampened investors' optimism about the resilience of the U.S. economy and the prospects for progress in the costly trade war between Washington and Beijing.

The Dow then rebounded somewhat after Trump said he plans to release the full transcript of a July phone call with Ukraine's president that is the subject of a meeting of Democratic leaders Tuesday considering a possible impeachment investigation. At 2:35 p.m., the Dow was down 92 points, or 0.3%, at 26,857.

The swings in stocks disrupted the relative calm that has distinguished the market in September. Traders piled into bonds, sending yields sharply lower. They also bid up utilities and household goods makers. All other sectors fell.

The drop in the measure of U.S. consumer confidence for August is worrisome for Wall Street because the U.S. consumer spending accounts for 70% of the economy and has been consistently strong even as other benchmarks of economic growth, such as manufacturing, have slowed.

Investors turned even more cautious around midmorning as Trump spoke before the U.N. General Assembly. In his remarks, Trump underscored the need for a fair trade deal with China, threatening more tariffs.

That appeared to dampen a dash of optimism in the market early Tuesday after U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin confirmed that trade negotiations with China will resume the week of Oct.7.

"Trump's speech to the U.N. did not seem conciliatory toward China," said Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at Baird. "The speech today didn't suggest that there was anything imminent in terms of good news from a trade perspective."

Technology stocks reversed course from their opening and led the decline. Chipmaker Intel fell 2% and Qualcomm dropped 2.1%. The sector is particularly sensitive to trade war developments as many companies rely on China for sales and supply chains.

Energy stocks were among the biggest losers as crude oil prices fell 2.4%. Schlumberger slid 4.6% and Halliburton gave up 4.8%.

Investors shifted money into consumer product makers and utilities. Both those sectors moved higher as they are typically considered safer places to shift money when economic growth is uncertain.

Bonds rose and pushed yields lower in another sign that investors were becoming more cautious following the weak consumer confidence data. The yield on the 10-year Treasury slipped to 1.65% from 1.7% late Monday.

Banks, including Citigroup, slid on the lower bond yields. The lower yields hamper a bank's ability to raise interest rates on loans. Citigroup lost 2.2%

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index fell 0.6% as of 2:35 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 107 points, or 0.4%, to 26,842. The Nasdaq fell 1.1%, while the Russell 2000 index of smaller companies slid 1.2%.

Major European stock indexes fell.

LACKING CONFIDENCE: The Conference Board, a business research group, reported that its consumer confidence index fell to 125.1 in September from a revised reading of 134.2 in August. The measure is important because consumers have been the key support for the U.S. economic expansion even as the trade war hurts manufacturing.

Analysts have been worried that a slide in confidence could mean an eventual drop in consumer spending and an erosion of economic growth.

STOCKS LOSING STEAM: The market has become weaker as September nears its end. Stocks are on track for another weekly loss as investor ease up following weeks of gains.

The S&P 500 notched a 2.8% gain the first week of September, but then pulled back to a 1.8% and 1% gain the following weeks. It fell 0.5% last week and is headed for a slight loss so far this week.

The U.S.-China trade war and the uncertainty it is producing has been the main cause of concern for investors. Both sides have pulled back somewhat recently from a series of escalating tariffs and other measures. Still, investors are cautious, considering that previous negotiations have failed to produce a deal.

BUSTED TIRE: AutoZone fell 4.9% after the auto parts retailer's fiscal fourth quarter sales fell shy of Wall Street forecasts.

ENCOURAGING OUTLOOK: Jabil climbed 5.4% after the electronics manufacturer beat Wall Street's fiscal fourth quarter profit expectations and gave investors a solid forecast.


AP Business Writer Damian J. Troise contributed.

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