On top of that, the Federal Reserve’s market-stimulating interest rate cuts appear to have come to an end. All that put stocks in the red.
The S&P 500, which hit a new record high Wednesday, traded down 0.5%. The Dow slipped 0.6%, or 175 points, and the Nasdaq Composite fell 0.2%.
Chinese officials have expressed doubts about whether the world’s two largest economies can reach a full trade deal, Bloomberg reported. That is casting a long shadow over the “phase one” agreement that the countries reached earlier in October.
The preliminary deal was meant to be signed at the APEC meeting in Chile, but the South American country announced this week that it will no longer be hosting. President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday “China and the USA are working on selecting a new site for signing of Phase One of Trade Agreement, about 60% of total deal.”
Financial markets have been rising and falling with trade headlines all year. Since the summer, the Federal Reserve’s decision to stimulate the slowing US economy with interest rate cuts has also been a positive backdrop for stocks.
On Wednesday, the US central bank cut interest rates for a third time in a row. But Fed Chairman Jerome Powell strongly hinted that the Fed is going to stand pat for the time being. Market expectations for a December rate cut are only at 29%, according to the CME FedWatch Tool.
Although the Fed acknowledged risks facing the global economy, it also said America was still doing well in comparison.
But poor economic data keeps trickling in: earlier Thursday, the Institute of Supply Management’s Chicago Business Barometer came in at its lowest level since December 2015. It was its second-straight reading below 50, which marks the line between growth and contraction.
Trump has long been critical of both the central bank’s policy and Powell, who he himself picked. Trump tweeted Thursday that “people are VERY disappointed” in the central banker. The president added that the US dollar and “rates are hurting our manufacturers. We should have lower interest rates than Germany and all others.”
Benchmark interest rates set by central banks mostly impact financial institutions and trickle down into the economy through them. They are not the same as interest rates a country pays on its debt, which are driven by factors such as risk sentiment. Particularly the government bonds of the United States, Japan and Germany are considered safe haven investments and are popular in times of market trouble.
Central banks in both the European Union and Japan kept rates at ultra-low levels, though economic growth has been sluggish at best.