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Word that more China tariffs could come knock stocks lower

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NEW YORK — U.S. stocks skidded late Thursday following a report that the Trump administration could put tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods as early as next week.

After a weak start, stocks fell further after Bloomberg News said the U.S. government was getting ready to ramp up its trade dispute with China. It has been threatening to tax $200 billion in Chinese imports for several months, which would represent a major escalation in the trade fight.

Major exporters including chemical companies and machinery makers took sharp losses. Technology companies also fell, while banks dropped along with interest rates and some weak second-quarter results hurt retailers.

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According to Bloomberg, the administration could impose the 25 percent tariffs as soon as a public review period ends next week, but it could simply announce the tariffs and say they will take effect later.

China has threatened to retaliate with tariffs on $60 billion in goods from the U.S. and could take other measures as well.

“Markets have kind of gone to sleep on these things,” said Sameer Samana, a strategist for the Wells Fargo Investment Institute. “We think this might take as long as a year or two to play out.”

Stocks were coming off a four-day surge that brought them to record highs as the U.S. appeared to make progress in trade talks with Mexico and Canada.

The S&P 500 index lost 12.91 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,901.13. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 137.65 points, or 0.5 percent, to 25,986.92. The Nasdaq composite slid 21.32 points, or 0.3 percent, to 8,088.36.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks dipped 2.40 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,732.35.

Construction equipment maker Caterpillar fell 2 percent to $139.06. Gold and copper miner Freeport-McMoRan lost 3.5 percent to $14.15 and steel producer Nucor slid 2 percent to $62.79. General Motors fell 2 percent to $36.36.

Discount retailer Dollar Tree plunged 15.5 percent to $79.78 after its quarterly profit and sales fell short of Wall Street projections. Investors were also concerned about the company’s forecast for the rest of the year.

Competitor Dollar General slipped 1 percent to $105.66 after it said its profit margins dipped. Clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch sank 17.2 percent to $22.55 after its sales disappointed analysts while PVH, which owns the Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger brands, lost 9.6 percent to $141.67. Arts and crafts retailer Michaels fell 14.8 percent to $17.01.

While many other retailers struggled, Signet Jewelers jumped 23.8 percent to $67.68 after its sales flew past expectations and it raised its forecasts for the year. Also rising was clothing and accessories retailer Tilly’s, which rose 14.6 percent to $20.63 after its report.

Video game maker Electronic Arts dropped 9.8 percent to $115.94 after it said the release of a major game, “Battlefield V,” will be delayed by four weeks. It also said the strong dollar is hurting its sales. It cut a revenue forecast, citing those problems.

K2M Group jumped 26 percent to $27.50 after larger medical device maker Stryker agreed to buy it for $27.50 a share, or $1.2 billion. Stryker slipped 1.3 percent to $169.02.

Campbell Soup says it will sell its international and fresh food businesses to pay down debt and will focus on its snack and soup business in North America. Investors appeared unenthusiastic about the proposal, and the stock lost 2.1 percent to $39.15.

Argentina’s peso plunged to another record low. The country’s central bank raised its primary interest rate to 60 percent, the highest in the world, to try to stop the sharp decline in the national currency. The peso has dropped more than 50 percent this year.

The Argentine Merval index jumped 5.2 percent after president Mauricio Macri said Wednesday that he is asking the International Monetary Fund for the early release of $50 billion in rescue funds for Argentina.

Other emerging market stock indexes, including those in Brazil and Mexico, took losses.

Amazon stock inched up 0.2 percent to $2,002.38, its first close above the $2,000 mark. The online retail behemoth’s stock is up almost 600 percent in the last five years, including a gain of 71 percent so far in 2018. That’s taken Amazon’s market value to almost $1 trillion. Earlier this month Apple became the first publicly traded company to reach $1 trillion in value.

Oil prices rose. Benchmark U.S. crude gained 1.4 percent to $70.25 a barrel in New York, while Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 0.8 percent to $77.77 a barrel in London.

Wholesale gasoline rose 1.8 percent to $2.14 a gallon. Heating oil inched up 0.3 percent to $2.25 a gallon. Natural gas added 0.4 percent to $2.87 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.86 percent from 2.88 percent. That hurt banks, as lower yields mean long-term loans are less profitable.

Gold fell 0.5 percent to $1,205 an ounce. Silver sank 1.5 percent to $14.59 an ounce. Copper lost 0.7 percent to $2.71 a pound.

The dollar fell to 111.05 yen from 111.69. The euro fell to $1.1663 from $1.1699.

Germany’s DAX was down 0.5 percent and the CAC 40 in France shed 0.4 percent. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares fell 0.6 percent.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 added 0.1 percent while the Kospi in South Korea dropped 0.1 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was 0.9 percent lower.

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