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Trade Tariffs And Tech Sector Worries Bring Down Stocks

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

OK. So what triggered the latest slide in U.S. stocks? The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended yesterday down 458 points. That's a drop of almost 2 percent in a day. The NASDAQ Index, which has a lot of tech stocks, fell more, closer to 3 percent. Now, let's remember, that's all just one day's trading. It could all come back today. But a number of tech stocks have been slipping for some weeks. So let's focus on those tech stocks with NPR's Chris Arnold, who's on the line. Chris, good morning.

CHRIS ARNOLD, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What's going on?

ARNOLD: Well, there's always a lot going on with the markets. So we should be careful to say exactly what's going on. But three things that are certainly going on, you mentioned one of them, technology. Also, trade and Trump. So we have these three T's.

INSKEEP: The three T's. OK.

ARNOLD: Three T's. It's our catchy framework this morning.

INSKEEP: OK.

ARNOLD: And at first, before we get into this, too, we should also say people shouldn't panic. At one point, the Dow yesterday was down about 700 points. So that was looking really bad. And then it came back up and recovered and closed down 458, which was bad but not as bad. So as you said, too, investors in Asia, there wasn't some massive sell-off. So it's not like investors all around the world are running for the exits and blindly selling stocks. But all kinds of companies are being affected. Every single industry sector in the S&P 500 Index was down, and that's the broadest measure of the U.S. market. So you know, there is something going on here, and technology stocks, as you said, were the hardest hit.

INSKEEP: OK. So technology, that T is the hardest hit. Why?

ARNOLD: I think a lot of it is an Icarus factor, you know, that some of these stocks may have just flown too high, too close to the sun. And they have to fall back down. I'm looking at just a couple. If you go from the start of last year, 2017, and look at Facebook, by February of this year - it's a little more than a year - Facebook was up 70 percent in a little more than a year, and it was already a pretty highly valued company, of course. Apple was up 55 percent in the same kind of timeframe. So, you know, you start seeing numbers like that, and investors worry about a tech bubble. And also there's been a lot of focus, you'll remember, very recently on Facebook and information sharing, and its company's gotten criticism. So, you know, that makes investors worry about, is regulation coming from Washington? That could be playing a role here, too.

INSKEEP: Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, it cannot be good for a company to have people publicly saying, I'm going off Facebook, I'm giving up Facebook. Even if it's a minuscule percentage of their billions of users, it's not the best publicity.

ARNOLD: Right. And Facebook's one example. But, you know, this affects - the whole trade sector is under pressure, I think, right now.

INSKEEP: OK. So that's the main T that we're going to talk about. But there are those other two, Trump and trade. How do they factor in?

ARNOLD: Yes. And I'm going to slip in a lowercase T, also - tweeting. The president tweeted about Amazon's business practices, too, and said it was scamming the post office by underpaying. And so that affected that one company. Its stock went down. But that's kind of minor. The much bigger capital T's are Trump and trade. And, look, the president's threatening it could be $60 billion in tariffs targeting China. That comes on top of tariffs on steel and aluminum. China's responded with tariffs of its own, although they're small. But, you know, they effect strawberry farmers and pork producers and steel pipes and some other things.

INSKEEP: Tariff. That's another T, by the way.

ARNOLD: We've got five T's in the mix. Yes, it's true. And, look, investors are aware a damaging trade war could break out. We don't know what's going to happen with NAFTA. There's more details on Friday coming out from the White House about all of this. So when there's uncertainty over big stuff, the markets don't like it.

INSKEEP: OK. Christopher Arnold, with a T. Thanks very much, Chris.

ARNOLD: Even more T's.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) OK. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.