Global stock investors call tech support and get nowhere

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks stumbled again on Wednesday as jitters about major technology and internet companies pushed investors toward their first quarterly fall in equity markets in two years.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 26, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid Inc AMZN.O, Netflix Inc NFLX.O and Apple Inc AAPL.O, once market leaders, mutated into an albatross just one day after concerns about other technology names sent stocks down sharply.

Amazon fell 4.4 percent after reports that U.S. President Donald Trump is looking to target the company by changing its tax treatment.

The 47-country MSCI global index .MIWD00000PUS sank 0.7 percent, enough to send traders piling back into the safety of bonds.

Safe-haven 10-year U.S. Treasury notes US10YT=RR rose in price to yield 2.777 percent, the lowest since early February's market meltdown.

That decline in yields chipped away at the spread between 2-year Treasuries US2YT=RR, which yield 2.282 percent, and longer-term bonds. Some investors see a narrowing between those bonds' yields as a sign the economy will sputter.

“There’s a general rotation from risky assets towards safe-haven assets ... with weakened equities and trade war tensions in the general backdrop,” said ING rates strategist Benjamin Schroeder.

The market’s losses were extended after China’s state-run Global Times reported that Beijing would soon announce a list of retaliatory tariffs on United States imports, reigniting fears of a U.S.-China trade war.

Amazon, categorized as a consumer discretionary name rather than a technology stock, weighed on its sector, which also includes Netflix and which is grappling with the potential for trade conflict and investors’ growing impatience with high U.S. stock valuations.

Apple AAPL.O dropped 1.1 percent after Goldman Sachs cut its March and June quarter sales estimates for the iPhone, citing weak demand.

Wednesday’s stock rout came after tech woes had given the Nasdaq its worst day since June 2016 on Tuesday.

Facebook Inc FB.O and Twitter Inc TWTR.N sank on Tuesday over data privacy concerns. Those social media shares pared their losses from the day prior after Facebook adjusted privacy settings to give users more control over their information.

Nvidia NVDA.O, by contrast, added another day of losses after the chipmaker temporarily suspended self-driving tests across the globe after an Uber UBER.UL autonomous vehicle killed a woman.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 9.29 points, or 0.04 percent, to 23,848.42, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 7.62 points, or 0.29 percent, to 2,605 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 59.58 points, or 0.85 percent, to 6,949.23.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index .FTEU3 rose 0.53 percent.

Asian stocks .MIAPJ0000PUS traded 1.75 percent lower, with Japan's Nikkei .N225 ending down 1.3 percent and top Chinese internet stock Tencent 0700.HK down 4.6 percent.

Since hitting a record high on Jan. 26, world stocks have been battered by worries about rising inflation, the pace of U.S. interest rate hikes and the possibility of a global trade war. The MSCI global index is down 9 percent from its high this year.

"We are rotating from the old regime of low interest rates and growth stocks like the FAANGs (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google parent Alphabet Inc GOOGL.O) into a new world where that paradigm is rocked and that creates volatility," said SEB Investment Management's global head of asset allocation Hans Peterson.


The report that Beijing plans to announce retaliatory tariffs against Trump’s plans for tariffs on up to $60 billion of Chinese goods was also rekindling worries about a Sino-U.S. trade war.

“The market is still nervous, and there’s a feeling you never know what Trump will do. But excessive wariness is likely to gradually wane,” said Hiroshi Watanabe, economist at Sony Financial Holdings.

The dollar got some respite from its recent sell-off as revised fourth-quarter data showed U.S. economic growth slowed less than previously estimated and revealed the biggest gain in consumer spending in three years.

The dollar index .DXY rose 0.8 percent, with the Japanese yen weakening 1.50 percent at 106.94 per dollar.

Dollar gains put pressure on commodities. Spot gold XAU= dropped 1.4 percent to $1,325.21 an ounce.

U.S. crude oil futures CLcv1 settled at $64.38 per barrel, down 1.3 percent, after data from the Energy Information Administration showed a surprise build in U.S. crude stockpiles.

Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Additional reporting by Marc Jones in London and Hideyuki Sano in Tokyo; Editing by Nick Zieminski and James Dalgleish