Wall Street falls on concerns about U.S.-China trade deal progress

(Reuters) - Wall Street’s main indexes ended Wednesday’s session lower on concerns that a “phase one” trade deal between Washington and Beijing may not be completed this year, while minutes from the Federal Reserve’s October policy meeting appeared to offer little help.

The Fed minutes offered little guidance on what would cause policymakers to change their outlook after they decided at the October meeting on the third interest rate cut of 2019 and signaled they were done with the easing.

Wall Street, which managed to end the day above its session lows, had kicked off trading in the red after a U.S. Senate measure aimed at protecting human rights in Hong Kong amid prolonged protests appeared to escalate U.S.-China tensions.

Then equities deepened losses, hitting a session low in the early afternoon after a Reuters report citing experts and people close to the White House as saying completion of a U.S.-China trade deal could slide beyond 2019.

“We have a December 15 deadline Trump has set for tariffs to go higher. The hope has been in the market that a phase 1 deal would be done before that,” said Scott Ladner, chief investment officer at Horizon Investments in Charlotte.

While the indexes ended above their session lows, Ryan Detrick, senior market strategist at LPL Financial in Charlotte, North Carolina, said the market was more than due for a dip because until Wednesday, the S&P had not registered two consecutive declines in 30 trading days. This was its longest stretch without back-to-back declines since 2005, he said.

But the strategist is worried that U.S.-China tensions over Hong Kong could be a big factor in trade deal progress.

FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., November 11, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

“Clearly that report led to a little skittishness reminding us the market is led by the trade discussions,” said Detrick.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 113.74 points, or 0.41%, to 27,820.28, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 11.79 points, or 0.38%, to 3,108.39 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 43.93 points, or 0.51%, to 8,526.73.

Before Wednesday’s drop, rising hopes for a trade deal and a fairly strong third-quarter earnings season had helped Wall Street’s main indexes scale record highs this month.

Market declines on the day were broad-based, however, with eight of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors falling and only utilities .SPLRCU, real estate .SPLRCR and energy .SPNY gaining.

The trade-sensitive technology sector .SPLRCT fell 0.7%, the biggest drag on the benchmark index while the Philadelphia Semiconductor index .SOX slid 1.2%.

The materials index .SPLRCM was the biggest percentage decliner of the major sectors on the day with a 1.2% loss. The interest rate-sensitive financial index .SPSY pulled back from its session low but still ended the day down 0.5% as safety buying pushed down the benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury yield further.

Reports from Target Corp TGT.N and Lowe's Cos Inc LOW.N were bright spots on Wednesday, with their shares jumping 14% and 3.9%, respectively, after the two companies raised their profit forecasts.

But apparel retailer Urban Outfitters Inc URBN.O fell 15.2% after missing quarterly sales estimates on weaker demand for its namesake brand.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.36-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.70-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 26 new 52-week highs and 4 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 95 new highs and 98 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 7.87 billion shares, compared with the 7.03 billion average for the last 20 trading days.

Reporting by Sinead Carew in New York; Additional reporting by Arjun Panchadar and Agamoni Ghosh in Bengaluru; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Matthew Lewis